It seems strange to be writing a review for R.E.B.E.L.S. #21 while I am still reeling from the announcement of the Gates/Igle departure from Supergirl. To be honest, I am still trying to process it. If the decision to leave was theirs (and not an editorial decision), then I salute them. (In fact, reading the latest post by Jamal Igle on his blog here, it sounds like he did ask off). And this isn't meant to hate on Nick Spencer and Bernard Chang, I am going into their run with an open mind. But it seemed like Gates and Igle were firing on all cylinders.
But enough about that. This is a R.E.B.E.L.S. review after all, right?
Recently this title just hasn't crackled the way it did early on. Maybe it was reading how the team formed that grabbed me. Or maybe it was reading Dox manipulate the diverse team members into banding together and fighting Starro. Or maybe it was seeing all the races and homeworlds in that corner of the galaxy and how writer Tony Bedard seemed to understand their myriad cultures. Or maybe it was all of it. But this book grabbed me then.
Lately I feel as though this book has lost its focus a bit. It really seemed like Bedard has been adding characters in hopes bringing in new readers and building sales. So the book now has Starfire. And then Captain Comet and Adam Strange. And now Lobo. And now Green Lanterns.
And while these last issues have all featured Vril Dox, the tentpole character of the series, it has done so by neglecting the original team members. Trust me, I like reading about a manipulative Dox. But I like seeing him lead his team too.
In the end, this issue may have been the last in this redefining period for the book post-Starro. It seems like there is a new focus at the end of R.E.B.E.L.S. #21.
With Brainiac 1 and Pulsar Stargrave fleeing Colu with the Central Core database, Vril and Lyrl Dox seem smugly satisfied with this pyrrhic victory. Given what little chance they thought they had against their father and grandfather, they are probably happy to still be alive.
But the Green Lantern recruits assigned to keep watch on Dox aren't as thrilled. They try GL Admos tries to arrest the two Brainiacs for violating a number of laws, most of them involving Vril not recognizing Oa's authority.
Of course, the only authority Dox recognizes is himself. He tells the two to back off or else ...
I love how Dox doesn't even blink when told that Oa is unhappy with his behavior. You need to be pretty confident in your abilities to stand up to them. Dox feels he should be in charge of everyone.
When you are defying the will of the Guardians, it helps to have a near indestructible GL-hating brawler like Lobo on your side. Lobo wastes no time engaging the recruits.
So far I have like Lobo in this book. He hasn't descended into caricature yet.
This whole issue is being told from Admos' viewpoint as he tells the Guardians what transpired on Colu.
We learn that Lobo is revered on Admos' home world of Okaara. That makes some sense since Okaara is a warrior world. I always thought of Okaara as teaching the art of war ... not the brawling chaotic style of Lobo. But as Lobo is a near-peerless fighter, I can see why he would have that race's respect. I have to say, I thought that was a nice little wrinkle. It is this sort of tidbit about the well-known worlds of the DCU that I think shows why Bedard is so solid here; he just adds that little bit extra about these places to make them seem more real.
As for Admos, we learn that he was without peer himself when on Okaara. He was thought to be their War Prodigy, a being destined to lead them to greatness.
Vril and Lyrl (and me) both wonder why a Kwisatz Haderach type being would decide to be a street level cop for the Guardians. I hope we learn more about this.
Admos shows his courage by doing what any warrior would do if Lobo was around ... challenge him! And he shows his prowess by holding Lobo at bay for a short time.
But Lobo is Lobo. He teaches Admos that a history of beating Okaaran acolytes doesn't mean anything when facing the Main Man. Lobo teaches Admos that the GL is far from untouchable.
Dox finally steps between the two. He has decided to end this battle with some phony diplomacy. He calls the media!
Dox asks if Oa really wants to publically stand up to him knowing he can face whatever springs from the current turbulent political atmosphere on Colu. Does Oa want to delve into nation-building, getting mired on this planet? Unlikely. And Dox knows it.
Brilliant assessment by Dox. And perfect way to capitalize on that assessment as well.
But why stop there? Why not really shove it in the Guardians' faces by calling them elitists over the airwaves, asking all those planets in earshot why they should kowtow to the Oans. Why not let Dox' L.E.G.I.O.N. run things instead?
Is this the new direction for the book? To have Dox basically compete with the GL Corps for police control around Vega? It certainly would be fun to see Dox tussle with the Guardians.
But it amusing to hear Dox, maybe the biggest elitist in the DCU, use the word as a weapon in labeling others.
"They call us rebels" Dox calls out to the crowd. And then the team arrives.
Hey! I kind of remember these guys.
I just want to see these characters again. It is such a volatile group. There has to be stories here. I want to read about Wildstar and Xylon and Ciji again.
One thing I didn't particularly like in this issue is how chummy Vril has suddenly become with Lyrl even though they were just at each other's throats. Vril even defends Lyrl here. It just doesn't make any sense.
Unless this is another gambit by Vril, I would think he wouldn't mind seeing his son locked up somewhere. Lyrl is a wild card here, a threat to Vril's stability. He would want him off the grid .. unless he knows he can control him. I hope this is investigated more.
Even the Guardians have to concede that Brainiac 2 has become a PR nightmare. Oa might be a bigger adversary for Dox than Starro ever was.
So with the reappearance of the team and a new foil established in the Guardians, I hope R.E.B.E.L.S. will catch lightning in a bottle again. I sure hope so. Let's see the team working together again!
As usual, Claude St. Aubin does his usual solid work.