R.E.B.E.L.S. #14 came out last Wednesday and marked the end of the over-arching 'Starro the Conqueror' storyline. I applaud writer Tony Bedard for understanding the timing of such things. The time was right for this story to end. The 'Starro Wave' threat felt real and it certainly was interesting to see Brainiac 2 stay a half step ahead of the tyrant. But stories like that can only continue for so long before feeling stale.
This book has found its level and its fans. Now was the time to 'free' the R.E.B.E.L.S. squad and see them interact with more of the DCU cosmos.
As always with this book, it is Dox that stirs the drink. His characterization nudged this issue up half a grade. It's classic.
One of the ongoing subplots in the book has been the Omega Men's mission into the Starro territory. Cloaked with the Psion-altered 'dark stars', the team infiltrated deep into the heart of Starro's empire and found a secret weapon ... a Starro toxin.
Streaking towards the front of the war, Doc works hard to weaponize the powdered residue of the poison into a liquid form.
My guess is that these stragglers of the Omega Men will become members of Dox' group in the end.
The poison won't be necessary if the ultimate weapon Dox has made to combat Starro works.
Despite a direct hit of a shell formed from Gamma Gong, Gene Bomb, and Psionic energy, Starro appears unharmed.
Adam Strange, who provided the voice over of the issue, calmly states that 'even the smartest man in space gets it wrong some time'. In some ways, this was just as important as the ultimate defeat of Starro. You can't write a book where Dox always can simply out-think his opponent or it begins to feel stale and simple. Dox needs to get it wrong now and then to keep the suspense up. It also makes his smug sense of invincibility that much more compelling.
Dox calls in his reinforcements but even with Tribulus and Ciji in the skirmish, Starro easily holds them off.
And to make matters worse, the unharmed Starro has access to more Psion-twisted starfish drones. And with their master so close, the drone fish revert to their usual mission. They quickly fly to the faces of the REBELS, enslaving Dox meager fighting force.
Dox states the obvious to Wildstar, it is time to die.
I did like that Dox' force field is more like a bottle than a flexible body suit. It makes sense that his technology would be closer to Brainiac 1's rather than Brainiac 5's.
Just as it looks bleakest, the Omega Men burst in firing their poison coated darts.
But just like Dox' technology, this Starro-specific weapon also seems to fail.
Or does it?
While in Starro's clutches, Dox notices that the poison darts do indeed work ... but only if they strike the starfish itself rather than the drone's host.
Brainiac makes it up close and person, pulling a dart from Starro's arm and shoving it into the queen Starfish he has draped on him. The poison does it's job, paralyzing the starfish and breaking the Conqueror's telepathic link to his slaves. Without that energy coming in, Starro is helpless. And Despero goes to work beating the life out of him.
And without the guidance of their master, the drone stars simply fall off of their hosts, freeing a whole galaxy from slavery.
This is definitely an understated ending to the conflict. It ends with a 'shk' and not a bang.
Even the vanguards are freed. Smite, in line to backstab and inherit Starro's armies, is forced to flee from the suddenly coherent Dominator fleet.
More importantly, Astrild Stormdaughter is also free. I have always like the tragic beginnings of this character as detailed in the R.E.B.E.L.S. Annual. Her dialogue is what interests me the most. She sounds almost sad to be free from Starro's guidance. I wonder if she will become a hero ... or if her devotion to her master will remain and she will continue to do his work or even try to reinstate him (should he survive).
One of my favorite parts of the book is Dox' victory speech at the end.
First off he proclaims that the galaxy owes their freedom to him. He asks that all of Starro's slaves be allowed to return to worlds without action being takes against them.
And with the galaxy free because of his work, Dox expects payment.
It is in some ways humorous. In all ways it is classic Dox. Let's face it, he got lucky. If not for the Omega Men's mission (something he had nothing to do), if not for their discovery of the toxin, Dox would not have been victorious. He truly had almost nothing to do with this win. If Tigorr's shot hit the main Starro starfish, Tigorr would be the hero. And yet despite the serendipity behind his win, Dox stands before the universe declaring himself their savior. Delicious!
The question then becomes just what becomes of this team. Will Xylon stick around now that the Dominator fleet has been reinstated? Will Ciji return to Durla? The motivations for these characters have changed. I hope there is some explanation of their reasoning if they remain with Dox.
I have to admit that the 'Starro dart' ending fell a little bit short of the mark for me. I had to sort of rationalize why all the Starro drones throughout the universe would simply fall off because of this attack.
But Dox' response made up for it. I continue to enjoy his character immensely and as a result, I continue to enjoy this title.
Overall grade: B