Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review: R.E.B.E.L.S. #6

The first arc of R.E.B.E.L.S. rumbled to a close last week and once again proved that Vril Dox might be the most complex and fascinating character in mainstream comics today.

Tony Bedard continues to show that he has a great handle on the 'DC Cosmic' characters and cultures while not losing track of the main characters for too long. The inclusion of Starro as a legitimate threat was gravy.

And while I think Claude St. Aubin is doing a fine job, I look forward to seeing Andy Clarke back on the title at some point.

The issue starts with a nice description of just how formidable the Dominator military is not that that seems to impress Starro-prime here. He simply wades into the fray hacking up as much Dominator infantry as he can.

But Starro doesn't want to annihilate the Dominators; he wants to assimilate them.

And with an order, a giant Starro drone factory begins spraying the field with face-huggers for new slaves.

One thing I felt was missing from this issue was some background on this 'new' Starro. We have been told this is THE Starro ... but I want to know more. It looks like Starro will be a threat throughout the run of this title so maybe I need to wait more.
As I said before, Bedard has done a good job of showcasing the different alien worlds, giving us snippets of how each culture works.

Here he shows how the rigid caste system of the Dominators proves to be its downfall. Only the Emperor knows the codes to 'the atomics', the most powerful weapons in the Dominator arsenal. When the Emperor gets enslaved, the hope of the Dominators to repel Starro fades. The remaining free-willed Dominators flee the home world.
The use of the word atomics reminded me of the 'family atomics' talked about in Dune ... I guess that yet again confirms that I am a geek.

Again, I thought this was a nice twist showing how Starro was able to easily destabilize what looked like an overly organized and stable culture.

Plus, as an old-school Legion fan, I always like seeing the Dominators get defeated ... even if it is by a bigger threat.

The highest ranking Dominator begins broadcasting the fall of the Dominator homeworld on all free and open frequencies.

And while Starro remains a galactic threat, Dox is facing something more immediate: Amon Hakk's pistol. Look at Dox, as cool as the other side of the pillow despite the barrel of a gun pressed against his temple.

Even better, he reminds Hakk that with the Dominators gone the Khunds will be next ... that is, 'unless someone very clever saves them'. Only Dox could be so aggrandizing when facing imminent death. Ciji, the Durlan captain, also shows up on the R.E.B.E.L.S. ship and recognizes that Durla is also in danger of the 'Starro wave' and seems willing to help Dox's cause.

Hakk's backstory is revealed including his vendetta against Dox. By joining L.E.G.I.O.N., Hakk was made a scapegoat on his home world, branded a weakling and coward. Still, he lowers his weapon so Dox can save the Khunds. Hakk gets the best line of the book. When talking about Dox he says 'I hate him so much I can't think straight!'

What can I say, it is scenes like this that make Brainiac such a great character. He's smug, machiavellian, brilliant, easy to hate, hard not to respect.
But as I said, the Dominator message went out on all frequencies. Bedard takes the time to show us all the other players on the map and how they react to the news of Starro's victory.

The Citadelains, the Gil'Dishpan, Kanjar Ro all have ideas on what it means.

The Branx, the Durlans, and the Coluans also take in the news.

The Coluans have the most measured and concerning response. With some quick calculations it looks like Starro will overrun the sector in 23 days!

I haven't seen some of these races since the early 80's when I read the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans series so it was pretty interesting to see how they all might be part of the ongoing series.

Even within these one panel snapshots of the worlds, you sense the undercurrent of each culture ... Branxian barbarians, Gil'Dishpan xenophobes, Citadelian warhawks. I am intrigued to know if Bedard already has plans for these races.

Wildstar returns to Dox with the damaged Silica. Initially Brainiac hopes to use Silica to regain control of his robot armies, currently working for Starro. Unfortunately, Silica is unable to link to them in that way. To be honest, given the troops we have seen under Starro's control I don't think an android army would do much to slow the big starfish down.

However, as I would expect, Dox has a backup plan ... a hardwired subprogram that Silica can activate in his former troops if she had access to a transmitter. Ciji knows of a Gordanian one nearby.

Usually I question the sudden revelation of a formerly undisclosed 'secret plan' that will solve an unsolvable plot point. I am no fan of deus ex machina. But here ... well ... it just fits Dox' character to have such a plan in his back pocket. I didn't even blink.

A short trip to the Gordanian post and a healthy dose of Tribulus and suddenly Dox has his transmitter.

So I guess we add the Gordanians (and from last issue the Psions) to the political landscape of the R.E.B.E.L.S. book.

In another great moment, Dox doesn't simply activate his plan. Instead, he needs to mock Starro first telling the tyrant that he'll 'sort him out soon enough'.

Only Dox would have the audacity to do that.

With the L.E.G.I.O.N. robots on-line, Dox activates his hardwired program. Suddenly all the drones fly into space and activate force-fields. Ten million force fields suddenly overlap each other creating a bubble and effectively cutting off the sector from the rest of the galaxy.

I liked this idea especially since we had recently seen a similar use of Brainiac force field technology in the way Kandor was sealed off from the rest of Krypton.

I also liked how Dox states that his original idea for this plan was as a defensive ploy ... a way to keep others off of his world.

Here instead it is used to keep Starro bottled up. Suddenly Starro is a very real but very caged threat.

And then, in another classic Dox moment he destroys Silica thus removing any way for the program to be shut down remotely. I get the sense that Dox considers his troops expendable no matter how well they do their job.

As for antagonizing Starro, Dox explains that angry opponents make mistakes. It was an unwinnable war; now there is a 7% chance of victory.

I have consistently been impressed with this title. Most of the characters and races in this book were gathering dust in the DC trash bin. It is as if Tony Bedard found some old toys and decided they were 'play worthy'. Despite a large cast of characters and a whole galaxy of cultures, he has woven a tight story. I have never felt lost, never felt that characters were missing for too long, and never felt that time was being wasted showing minor events or people.

I mean I never thought I would be interested in the Omega Men, or the Psions, or the Gil'Dishpan.

And despite the diverse R.E.B.E.L.S. team of quasi-Legionnaires, the key to the book is Dox. Intelligent, singleminded, ruthless, narcissistic, and your basic jerk, he is unlike any other 'hero' on the market.

I can't believe more people aren't reading this. This is simply one of the best reads every month.

Overall grade: A+


Nikki said...

Vril Dox is one of my favourite characters. I think more could pick this up after the crossover next year Bedard has teased. Maybe they play into New Krypton? Then there is the event Justice League are in during 2010.

Anj said...

Vril Dox is one of my favourite characters. I think more could pick this up after the crossover next year Bedard has teased. Maybe they play into New Krypton?

Thanks for the post.

I had not heard about any crossover so that is good news.

TalOs said...

I absolutely loved the 6th issue out! BD

I actually had the privilege of communicating with Tony up on Facebook and he says the title is doing well but it could be doing so much better unfortunately.