Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review: R.E.B.E.L.S. #15

After I read last month's conclusion to the Starro saga in R.E.B.E.L.S. #14, I wondered in just what direction Tony Bedard would bring the book. There was no need for 'bold new direction' here ... but the Starro story was the backbone for the first year of this title. With that conflict resolved, what would these characters do?

So I picked up R.E.B.E.L.S. #15 with more than the usual interest. I knew that Starfire was joining the book. And this beautiful cover of her certainly stood out on the rack. But what about the mainstays?

Would Dox be revered as the hero he claimed he was at the end of last month? With the threat of Starro and 'starfish assimilation' removed, why would any of the other team members (outside of Wildstar) stick around? Why should Ciji ... or Xylon ... or Adam Strange .. or Captain Comet ... why would any of them want to stay with Brainiac?

I was hoping I might get some answers here. I got some ... but not as many as I hoped. To be honest, I don't envy writer Tony Bedard. He basically has to completely reset the motivations and machinations of everyone and everything in this book. His biggest asset here is the character of Vril Dox. If any character can keep a book interesting, it's him.

So this issue acted as that sort of thematic reset button. We saw the beginning of some new plots, some new characters, and a new outlook for the team. In some ways, it felt like prologue. We are setting up the main plots that are going to be happening soon.

One thing I think Bedard did right is keep Dox away from adoration and respect. Despite having claimed to have defeated Starro on his own and saved the galaxy, Dox is actually shunned by the people of the worlds he saved. There is even a bounty on his head.

I am think this is the right way to go for this book. The name of the team is R.E.B.E.L.S. Dox should work outside the various administations of the galaxy. Plus, his character is so much more captivating when he is talking down to people, letting others know they are wrong and then proving it. If he was in charge and everyone agreed with what he said, that aspect of his character is gone. He is so much better as a sort of unlikeable and arrogant hero. It is that friction he brings to other characters that gives this book it's juice.

The citizens of the galaxy don't like Dox because his L.E.G.I.O.N. forces were the inroads Starro used to take over the nearby planets. Dox actually gets blamed for how successful the Starro wave was in the taking over the galaxy. If Dox had done his job, Starro would have lost long ago. Instead, Despero is given the hero's treatment.

In a great sequence, an assassin actually takes a shot at Brainiac. Dox asks Captain Comet to use his telepathy to find the gunman, but he can't. Almost everyone wants to see Dox dead. Comet can't initially pinpoint where the triggerman is over all the anti-Dox sentiment.

When the 'hero' of the book is wanted dead by the majority of a galaxy ... well that's just original. It is that dynamic that keeps this book vibrant to me.

Unfortunately, not much is said here about why these characters are sticking together. Maybe Xylon feels shame for losing his battles and that's why he isn't returning to the Dominion. But I still don't know why Ciji, or Amon Hakk, or Captain Comet would want to continue to hang around.

Elsewhere in the galaxy, a transport ship is boarded by Tamaranian pirates posing as L.E.G.I.O.N. officers. Like most pirates, they think they are to grab some booty. Instead they find that the 'booty' on board is Starfire (hee hee).

Of course, this is Starfire ... so she is drawn in a sexy way, in a state of undress. In some ways, it it gratuitous. In other ways, it is part of her character, that passion, that sensuality. Claude St. Aubin draws a pretty statuesque Kory here. I bet a lot of artists love drawing her character.

Unfortunately, I haven't read Titans or any of the other DC cosmic titles (like the Rann/Thanagar stuff) to know much of the back story here.

Apparently Tamaran has been destroyed, Blackfire has been Queen but has had troubles holding the refugees together. The pirates are deserters from the Tamaran fleet.

Being a warrior princess, Starfire makes short work of the pirates and decides to finish the trip to her homeworld's space on her own.

And I felt even more behind the times to find out Rann has been 'sterilized by a god-like being' and is currently a deserted wasteland.

Even desolate, Adam Strange thinks Rann would make a good R.E.B.E.L.S. base. He is also hopeful that maybe Dox can help revive the planet.

And as usual, Dox has a plan. But he only gets to it after dressing down Sardath, Rann's resident genius scientist. It is these moments, when Dox acts so smug to characters that just drives this book. I mean ... Sardath invented Zeta beam technology and protected Rann for years. You would think he deserves a modicum of respect. Still, Dox insults him calling him fatalistic and that he is 'lacking imagination'. Just wonderful.

It is even better when Dox does indeed state he has aa plan to save Rann, basically shutting up Sardath.

Meanwhile, 'galactic hero' Despero is about to decapitate Starro when the execution is suddenly interrupted. Astrild Stormdaughter and Smite have come to save him.

I wondered where Astrild Stormdaughter's alliance would lie once freed from Starro's rule. While all the Starro vanguards joined him of their 'free will', her joining (as seen in R.E.B.E.L.S. Annual #1) was also a complete mental and philosophical defeat. Unlike Smite who joined with the promise of power, Stormdaughter joined because she was traumatized into thinking Starro's viewpoint was right. I was disappointed but not surprised to see that she is still under her sway.

Smite realizes that Starro is still his best path to higher power.

I was also glad to see that Stormdaughter's 'life/death' vitality powers remain intact and weren't removed with the death of her homeworld. It makes her a more interesting character.

The two vanguards grab Starro and escape.

So Starro remains a presence in the book even if, right now, he isn't much of a threat.

The rest of the book is devoted to Starfire and her personal journey. Her time with the Titans and her relationship with Dick Grayson are touched upon. It is her strained relationship with Dick that made her leave Earth.

Starfire clearly is a very popular character, appearing all over the DCU ... Titans, Cry for Justice, JLA, Animal Man mini-series, and the other cosmic titles. I think her emotional personality should provide a nice foil to Dox here. My guess is they won't always agree on matters.

The book ends with something of a cliffhanger. A planet suddenly where Tamaran once was. Presumably this is Rann which has been shunted to Tamaran's orbit as a way to revitalize it.

Overall this was a good issue. After last month's big Starro climax, you can understand the need for the title to pause and take a breath. The playing field needed to be reset a bit. And with a title that has as many moving parts as R.E.B.E.L.S., that's a lot of pieces to place back on the board. Plus some time needed to be devoted to Starfire ... some exposition to explain how and why she made it to this corner of the DCU.

While I am glad to see Starro remain alive, I hope he stays away from the book as the main villain for some time. We need a bit of a break from the would-be universal conqueror. We need some new adversaries here.

With Andy Clarke now at Batman and Robin, my guess is Claude St. Aubin is now the monthly artist on the book. He has a good grasp of the team and their look. He also looks like he is having fun with Kory and her voluminous hair.

And Tony Bedard does a good job of keeping Dox as the central figure even in this issue despite the other plotlines he needed to touch upon.

Overall grade: B+/B

1 comment:

TalOs said...

With all due respect to Tony I too am another who's relieved to have the title focus on something else other then Starro.