R.E.B.E.L.S. #20 held the coveted 'bottom of the new comic pile' position last week, reserved for the comic I think will impress me the most. And why wouldn't it be there. Tony Bedard has consistently written a great book. The issue marked the end of the 'War of the Brainiacs'. It promised a throwdown between Lobo and Pulsar Stargrave.
And it sported a David Finch cover of Lobo, a cover that oozed just enough Simon Bisley to hearken back to Lobo's heyday while retaining enough 'Finch-ness' to clearly be his work.
As I have said ad nauseum here, the draw of R.E.B.E.L.S. is Vril Dox. So of the storylines above, I was most looking forward to seeing how Brainiac 2 would best Brainiacs 1 and 3. Surprisingly, it was the Lobo plot that entertained me more. Still the dichotomy of the two battles in this book gave the issue an interesting feel.
With Pulsar Stargrave razing the surface of Colu, Brainiac 2 fetches his secret weapon ... his old L.E.G.I.O.N. pal Lobo. Flying back to his home world, Vril notices Lobo's red lantern ring and wonders why Lobo isn't wearing it. Given his brief time as a Yellow Lantern, I wonder if Vril might make a play for the red ring himself. To Brainiac, might makes right. I wonder if that ring might be too big a temptation.
When Lobo arrives, Brainiac 1 seems very intrigued by him. In an added wrinkle I didn't anticipate, Brainiac 1 wants to capture and study the last Czarian. That makes complete sense given Brainiac's thirst for unique knowledge.
To aid his quest, the original Brainiac cracks the firewalls of Brainiac 3 and takes control of Stargrave, setting the Solaris against the Main Man. But Lobo isn't easily dispatched. Even when half-disintegrated (as beautifully and grotesquely rendered above by Claude St. Aubin), Lobo regenerates, tips his hat, and fights on.
Now I freely admit that a little Lobo goes a long way. I don't think I would want to read his adventures on a monthly basis. But in small doses, he is a lot of fun. Like here where he yanks Pulsar Stargrave from the sky with a tug of what appears to be infinite chain, spiking him into the ground.
Silly? Yes. Fantastic? Completely.
And big moments deserve big art. I thought this was a great splash page.
While that battle rages on ... big and grandiose and fiery and loud ... a more subtle battle, one of wits and cunning, is being fought behind the scenes. Since 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend', Brainiacs 2 and 3 team up to defeat their elder.
At first it seems as thought Vril and Lyrl have opted for brute force, gunning there way into where Brainiac is hiding. But in truth, they are holograms meant to confuse Brainiac while the real Brainiac 2 and 3 try to wrest control of the planet from their tyrannical forefather.
Turnabout being fair play, Brainiac enters his descendants' war room as a hologram as well and attempts to technically overrun their defenses and mentally defeat them.
There is a nice juxtaposition here with two such very different confrontations taking place ... Lobo and Stargrave literally toe to toe while the Dox's can't even physically face each other.
The elder Brainiac is the superior intellect though. He quickly defeats Vril and Lyrl, the two of them barely able to muster a defense.
I love the snide putdown 'you don't have the bandwidth'. Perfect.
Topside, it looks as thought Pulsar Stargrave may have snared Lobo.
Brainiac is not satisfied with mere victory. He wants to suck the younger models dry of their knowledge. It leads to a protected area within Vril's mind.
Here is where I figured Vril the schemer would have been waiting for this moment. I thought for sure he would have booby trapped his own mind with some retrovirus or some other technological poison pill.
Instead, in the weakest part of the book, it turns out that area is where Vril has buried all his sadness from never having been loved by Daddy Brainiac. Overcome by this emotional assault, Brainiac 1 collapses in tears and is unable to get control of himself. He runs away from Colu with Pulsar Stargrave and the Coluan data banks in tow.
This just didn't work for me. I don't need Vril to have suppressed Daddy issues. And I don't need Brainiac to flee while crying. It belittles both characters. Moreover, this is the second big battle (along with Starro) that Vril has won by luck. I need to see him win with his guile.
Unclear of the next step, Vril and Lyrl seem close to a reconciliation when they are cornered by the rookie Green Lanterns we recently met.
So, as usual, there was a lot to like about this issue ... the over the top Lobo fight, the Brainiac family feud fought from a distance, and the contrast of those fights adding to the flavor of the book.
But the ending of the Brainiac battle was something of a letdown. That seemed to deflate the issue a bit. And I hope Lobo isn't a permanent addition to the book ... not when we already don't see enough of the other R.E.B.E.L.S. team members. I would still highly recommend this book to anyone who would listen to me.
As I said above, Claude St. Aubin does some good work here.