Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: R.E.B.E.L.S. #27

R.E.B.E.L.S. #27, written by Tony Bedard and dran by Claude St. Aubin, came out last week. It is the second to last issue of title, a book which has lasted longer than I thought it would. I have to give DC credit for giving this book such a long leash. Sales were never great but the company gave this book every chance it could to succeed. And as a fringe book dealing with the non-Green Lantern DC Cosmic book, I think it did fairly well in the current market.

Still, the book seems to be limping to the finish a bit. It is hardly the book it was at its inception and that was a book I really enjoyed. One of the main strengths of this title was the interaction of the characters and the disparate group of 'heroes' that were struggling to work together and work for Vril Dox. Bedard knew that Dox was the key to it all and the first year of this book was a smart and fascinating character study of both Dox and those that loathed him and worked with him.

But somewhere along the way this book became more like the recent Mystery in Space and less like the R.E.B.E.L.S. we saw at the beginning.

With Dox under the control of Starro, we don't get the chance to see any of his subtle machinations and manipulations.

Instead we get witty banter like "I crap bigger than you!" as Lobo and Smite brawl on the Psion home world. It is silly to see the two beat each other into pulp while rattling off their biggest victories to each other, trying to intimidate.

Alas, no resurrection of Astrild Stormdaughter.

While I have lamented the fact that newly added characters like Adam Strange and Captain Comet have taken space away from the original RE.B.E.L.S., I have enjoyed the addition of Blackfire.

Complex characters are always a joy to read. Komand'r certainly has fit that billing. She isn't the outright evil character I first met in Teen Titans 25 years ago. But she might have an evil streak. Or maybe she is just a totalitarian. She is definitely a utilitarian. Here she realizes she needs the controlled Rannians to be freed to fight for her. As a result, she tells her troops that they cannot kill the drones. It was unexpected and shrewd of her. I figured she would mow them down, be able to rationalize her decision, and then take over Rann when it all shook out.

Starro arrives on Rann with an enslaved Dox in tow. And here is another good Blackfire moment.

Starro tells her that he has read Dox' mind and Brainiac finds Komand'r challenging. That is high praise from Dox who always has everything figured out. He is always one step ahead of his opponents. So almost nothing is challenging to him.

In many ways, Komand'r's power and politics are similar to Dox. I am disappointed that we won't be able to see more of their budding relationship. But with the end of the title, we probably won't see it any time soon.

As Starro swarms the planet, Lyrl 'reboots' Tribulus, both saving and upgrading the monster.

Lyrl has also been a compelling character. He hates Vril but has been working for him the last few issues. Where do his loyalties really lie? Is he going to be villain in the true sense of the word? I mean, I don't expect father/son picnics by the Dox clan any time soon.

What are his motivations? We probably won't know any time soon given the end of the title.

As Starro runs rampant on Rann, the big guns of the R.E.B.E.L.S. team are off on the Psion home world trying to rescue the already gone Brainiac. Amazingly, Bounder gets a line of dialogue! I suppose it's like the Legion where some characters don't get any screen time. But the team formed over the first year has really been pushed into the background here.

When Lyrl informs the team that Rann is about to be overrun, the team decides to split up. Captain Comet, Adam Strange, and Starfire will return to Rann while the original R.E.B.E.L.S. will look for Lobo.

Again it is a sign of the change in this title. The action is really on Rann but the original team like Wildstar get put on 'messenger boy' duty, finding Lobo to get him to come and help.

Blackfire actually holds her own for a short period of time, blasting Starro directly in the eyes to save herself and pleading with Dox to shrug off the drone star.

In a nice bit of irony, Starfire has to come and rescue Blackfire. Those two have history; I am sure Kory wouldn't mind seeing Komand'r die. In fact Starfire says Blackfire shouldn't count rescues. Again, Bedard is so good with complicated characters like Blackfire that I am sad that we won't see more.

Luckily Lyrl's upgrades are effective. A much more Validus-like Tribulus, armed with 'psionic lightning' which is three times as powerful as his old lightning. And the lightning is able to somehow disrupt the Starro drones, frying the starfish but leaving their hosts remarkably unscathed. Hmmm ... I guess I'll roll with it because the Dox family are so smart. At last, an effective weapon against Starro!

Meanwhile, Smite and Lobo have become fast friends, drinking in a Psion pub, and surprised to see the rest of the R.E.B.E.L. team.

All this needs to be wrapped up in one more issue ... which makes me think that much of the lingering plotlines won't be all packaged neatly with a bow. I am sure Starfire will land on her feet in some title but the rest of these characters will most likely be shelved until they become cannon fodder in some universe-level crossover. I would say there must be room for a DC Cosmic book ... but it isn't like DC pulled the plug after 4 issues. And this book was high quality. Maybe there just isn't a market.

I will miss Vril Dox and his Machiavellian ploys, his way of inspire fealty, and fear, and loathing. And unfortunately I missed him here. Hopefully he gets the Starro-drone removed early next issue so he can star in his own book.

Overall grade: B-

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