I have said before that R.E.B.E.L.S. as a title needs to keep Brainiac 2, Vril Dox, at the epicenter of the book. All the character development and plots need to evolve and revolve around him for this title to work at its best. The 'What happens in Vega' storyline ended on a high note in regards to that R.E.B.E.L.S. caveat. Vril was back as the center of attention despite necessary page space devoted to Starfire and the new GL recruits in the area.
That said, I also love the members of the team as well. It is such a hodgepodge group of natural enemies, all begrudgingly working for Dox despite loathing him. How does a team work if its members include a Khund, a Dominator, and a Durlan as well as some freedom fighters. That tension also helps drive the book. Unfortunately, the members of R.E.B.E.L.S. have been pretty much absent in the book since the ending of the Starro story. Sure, Dox needs to be the center .... but the team needs to be in orbit around him.
Luckily, Tony Bedard rectifies that a little in R.E.B.E.L.S. #18. We at least see some dialogue and some interaction between the members. But it was all too brief ... hopefully we'll see them in action soon.
The issue starts with Lyrl Dox, Brainiac 3, providing some back story of Colu and the Dox family tree to his recently created super-weapon Pulsar Stargrave.
It is a decent recap of Vril's origin. How he was created as a clone of THE Brainiac, helping that villain create his city shrinking technology. When Brainiac fled from Colu to carry out his plan to gather information, Colu reprimanded the only part of Brainiac left behind ... Vril.
And you wonder why Vril carries a chip on his shoulder. His own people inappropriately tried to lobotomize him.
Moreover, fearing the emergence of another Brainiac, the Coluan government created the Computer Tyrants, taking control of the world's population, controlling everyone's thoughts. Vril ends up escaping and bringing his L.E.G.I.O.N. team to the planet to free his people from its oppression.
As a longtime fan, I knew most of this. But I have to say it was good to have it retold. Those stories are 20 years old! I had forgotten about the 'computer tyrants' so it was good to read this again.
Not surprisingly, Stargrave is only minimally interested in the story, trying to target Lyrl throughout the history lesson. But the creator has put in fail safes. Pulsar cannot attack him.
Lyrl wants Pulsar to know about his history because it will make taking over Colu that much more fun. There is something wonderfully chilling when the Dox clan takes things personally. When the staid, controlled, calculating exterior is peeled away, it is frightening. Nothing could be more dangerous than an out of control Brainiac.
In the mean time, Dox continues to bask in the glory of his home world. He has brought home Brainiac 1 and is received as a planetary hero. He seems to want to soak in every second of it. No doubt he must love the irony of being the savior of his home planet twice over after being vilified and imprisoned before.
And, as usual, Dox knows how to play for the camera, being charismatic and seeming approachable for the paparazzi. He even hints at a potential romance with 'Blackfire'. This is another thing I love about Dox. The man in front of the microphones is much different than the one at R.E.B.E.L.S. HQ. He is the master manipulator. He isn't likeable ... but he sure is entertaining reading.
At last we see the R.E.B.E.L.S. troops!
Okay, maybe they are only sitting around a table but at least we get some dialogue.
Wildstar continues to be completely loyal to Dox despite being atomized by him. Even this life, as an energy wraith, is better than her life at home, ostracized as a freak of nature.
And Amon Hakk isn't too happy either. He hates Dox; everyone who knows Dox for any length of time hates Dox. But he can't go home either. Whether he likes it or not, he is stuck serving in the R.E.B.E.L.S. And that means being around Ciji, who clearly Hakk distrusts.
It once again showed just how volatile the team is. They are held together by their respect for Dox, no matter how much it bothers them.
During the scene, we learn that Captain Comet is home on Earth for some reason.
So we have seen that Lyrl has made things personal between him and his dad. Back on Colu, we see that Vril has made it personal. Not content with the dotage of the masses, he needs to shove it in Brainiac's face one last time.
It clearly is personal as Dox flaunts defeating his father despite all the ways Brainiac tried to hold his son down.
And it is delicious how Brainiac turns it around, calling Vril pathetic for craving Brainiac's attention. Is this a psychological weakness in Vril? It seems that no matter what he does to balance the sheet, he still will feel insecure about his father. And is that same insecurity echoed in Lyrl's feelings for him?
Just when things are heating up on Colu, we see things heat up around Earth.
Starfire, upon learning Comet was on Earth, flies to meet him. She finds him mourning his sister but is able to ... ahem ... change his mood. The two have an amorous encounter on the ship, filled with lots of 'peekaboo' panels, everyone's naughty bits covered by clothes, shadows, or voluminous Tamaranean hair.
Starfire makes sure that Comet doesn't become too smitten. She needed a release; he helped. He is a 'friend with benefits' ... nothing more. Her heart still belongs to Dick Grayson.
I don't know. Sure Starfire is passionate and this is within her character. And I don't mind the plot line. But it felt a bit over done. I don't know if it is an important enough piece to this title to warrant 5 pages here. Although, it is nicely rendered by Claude St. Aubin. Maybe more scenes like this will increase sales?
While Starfire has her romp, Stargrave and Lyrl arrive on Colu and begin attack, razing the landscape and scattering the troops. Stargrave is a solaris model so it isn't going to be easy to defeat.
Again, despite being 'computers' there is an undercurrent of anger and revenge here. I love how Stargrave carves the Brainiac '3 connected circles' into the ground here.
When Dox is notified that Brainiac 3 is attacking the planet, Brainiac 1 shows that he isn't as imprisoned as everyone thought. He simply removes his shackles and escapes. Ironically, he is upset that someone else is using his name. It appears his main target is Brainiac 3!
So after the 'Vega' storyline reset the R.E.B.E.L.S. landscape, this issue was very good. This was what a R.E.B.E.L.S. issue should feel like, Dox manipulating and planning, the team struggling with each other but staying together, and a galactic threat to overcome. Only the Starfire/Comet scene felt like it seemed too long for it's content.
I really feel like Claude St. Aubin has grown as an artist during his time here. He really shines here.
Overall grade: B/B+