Saturday, May 15, 2010

Review: R.E.B.E.L.S. #16

Just how long will R.E.B.E.L.S. be around? It is the question I ask myself every month. Sales are low. Quality is high. Is there no way to lure new readers in? Well, an engaging cover is a good start. Let's be frank, last issue's cover of Starfire was certainly pretty. And, at least, she is going to be an ongoing character, a member of the team.

Now let's look at this cover for R.E.B.E.L.S. #16. Can this be considered a R.E.B.E.L.S. cover? The main characters are in the background on what appears to be a recruiting poster for the L.E.G.I.O.N. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the characters are pretty much unrecognizable as we see two new Green Lanterns burst onto the scene. In fact, it is trumpeted with a cover blurb ... 'Plus Introducing two new green Lanterns'! It could be that DC thinks that the popularity of Blackest Night and Green Lanterns in general is enough that 2 rookie GLs on the cover might grab some new readers. Or maybe Bedard (who is taking over Green Lantern Corps) is planning on these characters becoming names like Katma Tui or Arisia. But I can't get away from the fact that the stars of this book are considered secondary to 2 nameless Green Lantern recruits.

Anyways, if these Lanterns bring in new readers I'll be happy. I just hope that one day a cover with Vril Dox is enough to grab new readers.

This issue is the second part of the nicely named 'What happens in Vega' story arc. Where last month's issue set up the story, this issue does a nice job of showing the galactic fallout of Dox' actions. And this is where I think Bedard shines. Much like the early issues of the Starro story where we would see snippets of the interstellar powers reacting to the Starro Wave and Dox, we see the same here. And when it is Dox against everybody (even his own teammates), this book sizzles.


With Rann now in Tamaran's airspace and orbit, Dox's L.E.G.I.O.N. begins the process of making it fit for Rannian life again.

With Ciji terraforming the land and placing 'air farms' down, Starfire has some questons to ask. And when Kory asks a question, it is usually punctuated with violence. Just what are the L.E.G.I.O.N. doing to 'her planet'? She mistakenly believes that Rann is Tamaran somehow returned.

It's a nice dynamic splash page to start the book. The point of view makes it interesting with Starfire coming in upside down from the reader as she streaks into battle. Other R.E.B.E.L.S. come to the aid of Ciji and eventually Starfire is subdued enough that Adam Strange can explain to her what is happening. It was nice to see Wildstar in action.



I do like how Bedard immediately sets up how strong Starfire is in personality, in energy beams, and even in sheer muscle. Look at her fingers dig into Adam Strange's shoulders as she asks him some questions.

Now I don't want Starfire to become the muscle. I don't think she should be able to easily throw a bus or anything. But I think that this part of her character ... this strong, passionate, decisive response to things ... is going to set her up nicely as the perfect foil for Brainiac. The other team member might not like Dox but they seem to fall into line when gives orders. I don't know if that will happen with Kory. She might try to slap Brainiac's smug face just as much as she will do what he asks of her.

In fact, when they meet, Dox explains why inserting Rann into Tamaran's orbital path was crucial to the Vegan system. Without a planetary gravitational pull, the other planets would drift into each other resulting in cataclysm. While she understands the sentiment, Starfire asks the question everyone else was thinking but afraid to ask ... what is Dox getting out of this. Nothing Brainiac does is purely magnanimous. Dox answers the question. Rann will host the L.E.G.I.O.N. headquarters.

In just over a month, Rann is once again thriving and the Rannian refugees begin to return home 'even if they have the son of Brainiac to thank for it'.

I love how Dox feels the need to 'press the flesh', making saccharin appearances on local news programs spouting platitudes about saving grass and birds. You can almost get the sense of how uncomfortable he is doing it. Even his expression seems to say disingenuous. This must have been the last thing he would want to do. Maybe he needs to get a mouthpiece on the team. I would say Amazing Grace would be an interesting member but I think the New Gods all remain dead or on another planet.

And here is the part I really like. After this fluff piece, the local powers begin to scheme about how they will shut down the R.E.B.E.L.S. and take away what Dox has just gained.

Blackfire sets the remaining Tamaran fleet on a course for Rann. The Psions begin to plan 'crushing' Dox. And the Guardians send a couple of 'new lanterns' to the area. Looks like a possible three front war for Dox to wage. I love how even something as 'good' as restoring a planet and its people by Brainiac make other races bristle. That's why I like Brainiac.


An interesting thread that has weaved its way through both Adventure Comics and now here in R.E.B.E.L.S. is the sheer drive of the Dox family to distance themselves from the infamy of the city-shrinking Brainiac. You would think that Vril has enough of a history built up that he is viewed upon as his own person. But clearly being a clone of Brainiac has continued to scar Vril. Look at how livid he is when he discusses his criminal progenitor. He is going to show that his will is more powerful than his genetics. And yet despite all he has done, he continues to be compared to the city-shrinking tyrant.

I like how this remains a burr for Dox. It is a mental weakness, an Achilles heel. It also probably explains a lot about what Dox has done. To prove he is not an agent of chaos and destruction, he will swing the pendulum over to the other extreme being a fascist. (I love how Captain Comet says one way that he could have distanced himself from the murderous Brainiac would be to not hang out with murderers like Lobo.)


But Dox has a new idea for his LEGION of peace-keepers. Gone is the robot army. Instead he will train local peacekeepers. And what better way to show he is back than to clean up the Vega system, the most criminal sector in space.

Again, Captain Comet acts as the naysayer, stating that plopping Rann in the sector is like pouring gas on a fire (he actually compares it to dropping Israel onto Palestine). Comet knows that some pushback is going to happen from everyone else in the area.

I like how Comet is at least not walking in lockstep with Dox.


The Lanterns that the Guardians have in that sect have an interesting perspective on the history of the area. One is from Okaara. The other is from Psion. Certainly their people's history will play a big part in their personalities. Will their loyalty to the Corps be tested if their worlds become involved in a L.E.G.I.O.N. based skirmish? We'll find out soon enough. A L.E.G.I.O.N. cruiser fires on the two as both groups try to stop a fleeing perp.

But these aren't even full-fledged Lanterns. Those blank discs on their chest mean they are in training.

Dox basically has nothing but contempt for the Corps. When Salaak asks Dox to let the local Lanterns do their job, Dox turns him off. Salaak even warns Dox that he doesn't want to start a 'turf war' with the GLC. Those are fighting words.

Dox remains cool as a cucumber. Add the Corps to the list of people who hate him. Awesome.


Captain Comet, disgusted by Dox' actions, decides to leave the team until he realizes that Starfire has joined the R.E.B.E.L.S. team. She wants to clean up her own back yard. He doesn't mind looking at her. Heck, she even points out the L.E.G.I.O.N. symbol on her pelvis for him. So, he'll stick around.

I always felt that Comet was sort of a stiff, a workaholic do-gooder. In some ways it is refreshing to see that he can be distracted by baser desires. I love how Adam Strange explains it to Alanna. Comet has realized that the 'half naked supermodel is, well ... a half naked supermodel'. I had to chuckle.


As he attempts to woo Kory, the two are distracted by a nearby explosion. It seems that the Rannian defense system isn't quite up to snuff. Blackfire's Tamaranian battle ship was able to slip into Rann's airspace with all the refugee ship landing. It leads to the sister Princesses squaring off in battle for about the umpteenth time.

I am simply befuddled why this book doesn't sell better. As usual, this is a character driven book with a lot of action, a lot of humor. Bedard knows just the right strings to pull to continue to get enough conflict between the R.E.B.E.L.S. and other groups as well as from within the R.E.B.E.L.S. themselves. Dox is such an interesting and complex character. This amount of personality and emotion is refreshing in comics. This issue is no different. After the all encompassing Starro plot line, this new setting is full of possibilities. I hope DC continues to support the book.

Claude St. Aubin is inked by Walden Wong this issue. It is pretty clear that the two are trying to develop a look for this book, best described by me as 'Andy Clarke dots', where lines are replaced by closely approximated ... well ... dots. It works in most places, although sometimes faces seem to suffer and look awkward. One thing for sure, St. Aubin has a nice affinity for Starfire really looks lovely and sensual in all panels, perfect for her intense persona.

I love this book. It almost never disappoints. It is always entertaining.

Overall grade: A

9 comments:

TalOs said...

As usual I'm in total agreement with you on just how good this here title is, Anj and can't comprehend as to why it's still on a unfortunate decline regardless come sales wise. I have to wonder if DC were to bring in a Superman family member in the form of one Karsta Wor-Ul/"Kristin Wells" if it might result in an increase with audiences interest in picking up the title knowing that a Kryptonian who's not involved in "War of the Supermen" mega event has somehow miraculously managed to make it into Dox's intergalactic fairing band of misfits and what this would mean to Superman and Supergirl upon finding out not only has she returned to their galaxy but has chosen to join Brainy 2.0's team in tow too.

What do you think though?

rocke said...

I got a few of the early issues, but could not warm up to it. The negatives are: 1. The draw for me to try this title was the guest appearance of Supergirl, but it did not treat her right, 2. the main guy is a jerk, 3. the main guy is also a user, and 4. the other protagonists are usees (kind of pathetic). I might try the series again if it they bring back Supergirl for an arc and treat her respectfully this time. I do agree that the issues I read have good artistic quality.

JPH said...

It is really quite painful to see a great book like this keep struggling in sales. Here is my suggestion to Tony Bedard to bring in new readers: Use his induction into the Green Lantern family to have a five-part REBELS/Green Lantern crossover with Geoff Johns. The plot, LEGION vs Sinestro Corps. Vril Dox vs. Sinestro for the right to be called the universe's top fascist!!!!

And if that doesn't happen, I would gladly take a Vril Dox vs Larfleeze the orange lantern, whose home is in the vega sector and would not tolerate a new power in "his" sector.

@TalOs: Bedard apparently wanted REBELS to cross over with the War of the Supermen, but when DC decided to end it in a month due to sagging sales, the REBELS connection went in the Brainiac 5 segments of Adventure Comics.

@rocke: Yes, the main guy is a jerk. Yes, the main guy is a user. And yes, that is exactly why we REBELS readers love him.

Anj said...

I have to wonder if DC were to bring in a Superman family member in the form of one Karsta Wor-Ul/"Kristin Wells" if it might result in an increase with audiences interest in picking up the title knowing that a Kryptonian who's not involved in "War of the Supermen" mega event has somehow miraculously managed to make it into Dox's intergalactic fairing band of misfits

I think it's a good idea. But my bet is DC wants to run as far away from 'other Kryptonians' as possible once War is over.

My guess is we'll only have Superman and Supergirl for a loooong time.

Anj said...

@rocke: Yes, the main guy is a jerk. Yes, the main guy is a user. And yes, that is exactly why we REBELS readers love him.

I agree with you JPH.

It's funny how the very thing that I love about the book is also driving people away from it.

valerie21601 said...

Maybe if they came up with a female foil to Dox, at least behind the scenes. Who can hold her own with him verbally, isn't intimidated by him in the least. Knows her intellectual limits but makes great use of what she has and when to use her instinct and a great fighter.

Sounds like Lyrissa Mallor but then they killed her off early in the first series.

Mart said...

Also sounds like Starfire in this issue, as reflected by Anj's review!

I do miss Lyrissa, though. And Phase. And Marij'n ... but not that annoying Zena Moonstruk!

Anj said...

Maybe if they came up with a female foil to Dox, at least behind the scenes. Who can hold her own with him verbally, isn't intimidated by him in the least. Knows her intellectual limits but makes great use of what she has and when to use her instinct and a great fighter.

I think Starfire will be fill those shoes, but be a bit more recognizable.

Timbotron said...

I agree that Starfire is a step in the right direction. Heck, to a DC nerd like me, it's already filled with ringers with Adam Strange and Captain Comet. Starfire is great icing on the cake.

Maybe a Lobo guest-appearance?