It has been a while since I have felt that R.E.B.E.L.S. is the same book that I enjoyed in its earliest issues. Remember those early issues when the book looked at some of the more underutilized corners of the DCU? We saw Branx warriors, the Citadel, the Khunds, etc. Growing on the original concept of L.E.G.I.O.N., this was a quasi-Legion of Super-heroes in current times and led by the Machiavellian Brainiac 2 Vril Dox.
Somewhere along the way, for me at least, the book lost it's focus. Rather than looking to capitalize on these dustier parts of the cosmos, it seemed to try to bring the book into the more well-traveled parts of the DCU. So no more Dominion, no more Durlans, no more Star Haven. Instead we have Oa and Rann.
And we haven't had the original R.E.B.E.L.S. team for some time as well. Part of the beauty of the early issues here was that Dox was such a master manipulator that he could wring a team out of the combustible parts of an ex-Dominator admiral, a Khundian warrior, and a sadistic Durlan. There was energy there and it all rotated around Dox and his anti-hero personality. Instead we now have Lobo and Starfire and Adam Strange and Captain Comet. We have had issues devoted to rookie Green Lanterns. And while those have all been interesting additions to the team, their presence has decreased the screen time for the original members to near zero.
So why the depressing beginning to this review? Well, because there is a silver lining here. R.E.B.E.L.S. #25 had those original team members actually in the book! And some of them had dialogue! And with the returning threat of Starro, this issue felt like slipping into cozy slippers. I was in a comfortable place.
I seem to say it every month. Dox is the straw that stirs the drink here. I don't necessarily want to read an Adam Strange or a Lobo book. I want to read a R.E.B.E.L.S. book. So I hope that somehow Tony Bedard is able to stir this book back to its roots. (Can a book 2 years old have roots??)
With Starro the Conqueror back in business, his acolytes Smite and Astrild Stormdaughter bring the fight to the R.E.B.E.L.S. While Smite battles with Tribulus, Stormdaughter grabs Vril. And wisely, she removes his force field belt. He is basically unprotected now.
But this is a battle on the R.E.B.E.L.S. home turf. Starfire skirmishes with Stormdaughter. Unfortunately, both Tribulus is defeated, a battle axe buried in his head. And Starfire gets overcome. Starro's generals escape, teleporting away with Dox in tow.
It shows how far this book has come with Starfire having to ask who Smite and Stormdaughter are.
The rest of the team mobilizes a little too late. Look! I see Wildstar ... and Ciji ... and Amon Hakk!
And poor Tribulus is there too, the axe still lodged in his cranium.
As for Dox, he is brought to Starro's new seat of power, the Psion homeworld. I love the shocked look on Dox face. Starro controlling a planet of unscrupulous and wildly intelligent scientists is a scary thought.
There is a bit of Starro monologuing here ... lording over Dox and explaining how he came back into power. You think Starro would immediately enslave his biggest foe. But he wants Dox awake and aware of his defeat. It makes it that much sweeter for Starro. I still don't know though ...
In the meantime, Lobo flies off, enraged that Astrild Stormdaughter defeated him. Lobo plans to track her through space and confront her.
It isn't the plan Adam Strange wanted. But he knows better than to let an opportunity slip by him. If Lobo can lead the team to Dox, then the team should follow the Czarian into space. And hey! Wildstar will use her Dawnstar-like powers to track him! We actually get to see her in action. As a big Wildfire and Dawnstar guy, I love the Wildstar character and always hope she'll get some screen time.
Finally, Starro shows Dox his secret weapon, all the Lobo clones the Psions have been creating.
Dox wonders why none of the Lobos have the face-hugger starfish yet. Something isn't right. And with that, Starro has heard enough and slaps a starfish on to Dox' face.
I do like the idea behind this panel. This is a huge moment in this book, Starro's victory over his biggest enemy. So there needed to be some energy here, some kineticism. So the ghost images, the motion lines as Dox' head snaps back, the loud 'shlup' ... it all adds to the moment.
Starro's problem is that the cloned Czarians cannot be enslaved. They resist until they burn themselves out.
Is the emphasis on kidnapping Dox because Starro thinks Brainiac can come up with a solution around this? Or was it pure revenge?
So the R.E.B.E.L.S. all pile into their ship, following Wildstar to the Psion homeworld. When did Adam Strange officially become second in command?
And why does the rest of the team fall so quickly in line to listen to him? I mean why would Xylon listen to him. Wouldn't a Dominator Admiral think he should lead? It takes Dox to keep these guys in line. I would have loved one panel of Strange demanding people listen to him rather than this happy crew sitting around the bridge Next Gen style.
But with the team gone, Starro starts to infiltrate Ranagar taking over the defensive troops.
This doesn't look good. Of course, Komand'r and the Tamaran army are just on the other side of the planet. So maybe a battle for Ranagar is going to happen!
Lobo arrives on the Psion on homeworld and immediately seeks out Stormdaughter for a rematch, this time wearing a clothespin on his nose to ward off her pheromone attack. And then, in a shocking cliffhanger, Lobo sinks his hook into Stormdaughter's head.
Man ... I hope Stormdaughter isn't dead. Of all the original characters in this book, I like her the best. Her back story was so tragic. I keep hoping that redemption is in her future. I keep hoping she'll become a 'good guy'. So I would hate it if she died. Of course, she is a goddess of life/death/rebirth so I doubt it will take. Maybe a rebirth will set her mind straight?
Anyways, this wasn't a perfect issue but it seemed like the first time that there has been a merger of the old R.E.B.E.L.S. and the new. It was nice to see the original member shake of the dust a bit. And the threat of Starro, while just recently visited here, also works.
Lastly, I have to say that Claude St. Aubin's art is really slick here. It seems like his work improves every month.