Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: R.E.B.E.L.S. #22

R.E.B.E.L.S. #22 was released last week and was the middle chapter of the three part 'To be a Rebel' storyline. R.E.B.E.L.S. as a book continues to find it's way in the post-Starro world, as writer Tony Bedard has the team exploring their new role in the universe.

Maybe it isn't necessarily a new role, they are back to being L.E.G.I.O.N. protectors for worlds again, providing a police presence for the galaxy. But now, to compete, Brainiac has taken an anti-Oa stance, asking planets who they would rather have protect them: the R.E.B.E.L.S. or the Green Lanterns. For me, in some ways, these last several issues have sort of lessened the book a bit. I liked when R.E.B.E.L.S. felt like a solo DC cosmic book, exploring the areas of the DC galaxy  that weren't covered elsewhere. Now, the book sort of feels like an adjunct to the Green Lantern franchise.

We are closer to the original feel of the book now. The team's roster appears to have stabilized now that Adam Strange, Captain Comet, Lobo, and Starfire have joined. With the team settled, we can again begin to look at the individual characters a bit more closely. And I need to see Bedard do that again. One thing I liked about the early issues of this title was how easily Bedard was able to showcase different races cultures, how he had developed some pretty well-rounded characters. With Starro done, with new members present, I still don't know why some of the original R.E.B.E.L.S. are still there. Why would Ciji or Bounder or Xylon stick around? The newer members of the team seem to be dominating the book a bit more. So I hope we are going to see more of those characters soon.

The book sports a very nice cover by Legion artist Francis Portela, showing a very nice action shot of Starfire.

The book starts off with a scene on Oa, further cementing my feeling that this is now a Green Lantern book, even moreso now that the Okaaran and Psion Green Lantern novices are in the book so prominently.

Green Lantern Karkum, the female Psion, is being investigated by the Guardians for some indiscretion she has committed on her homeworld. Whatever she did, it seems grave and has worsened the relationship between Oa and the Psion people. Karkum is allowed to tell her story.

I know that this is pertinent to this storyline but I don't know if I need or want this scene in this book. There are already 3 Green Lantern books on the market. And this sudden concentration on more GL-like stories and the newer more popular team members hasn't really effected sales that much.

I mean ... when was the last meaningful dialogue we have heard from Amon Hakk? Or Bounder?

We then see a meeting of the R.E.B.E.L.S. team, albeit initially without Vril Dox. Adam Strange has concerns about what is happening. He is worried about the anti-Oa message, about Lobo being on the team, about Lyrl wandering the halls.

This scene is a short 2 pages and I really wished it could have been longer. This was a chance to be re-acquainted with these characters. At least we see Wildstar in a panel. But again, looking at that table, without the unifying threat of Starro, it makes me wonder why some of these characters are still there. Aren't there stories to be told there? Why would Ciji stay and work for Dox? What's worse, because the scene is short, we only get more 2-dimensional representations of these characters.

Honestly, I miss these characters and their interactions with Brainiac. That dynamic is what made me read this title to begin with.

Dox arrives at the end of the discussion and despite the apparent brewing mutiny, appears confident and smug in what he is doing. That was a nice moment.

Starfire has been asked by Dox to do something of a good will tour for the LEGION team, being a spokesperson and media darling for the team.

While traveling from planet to planet, Kory notices that Karkum has been following her. Initially, Starfire thinks it is something of an attack. After all, Kory had been a prisoner of the Psions earlier in life, her homeworld destroyed by the Psions. Maybe Karkum wants to kill her.

Turns out Karkum wants Starfire's help. She reminds Kory of the atrocities she suffered at the hands of the Psions when she was imprisoned. Karkum understands those indignities because she suffered them too. Starfire lashes out; she doesn't want to be reminded of that time. No one has  the right to talk to her about it.

I will admit I had forgotten this portion of Starfire's origin, that she was sexually abused by the Psions. Maybe I didn't remember it because I think that theme in a female character's origins is somewhat overused.

But what does Karkum mean that she also suffered like that?

Karkum takes Starfire to the Psion planet. There, the Green Lantern acolyte slaughters several Psion soldiers, telling them they do not deserve Oan protection. It is sudden and shocking.

But I wonder, do Green Lantern rookies ... initiates who haven't earned the symbol ... do they have full access to what the ring can do? Can they use lethal force? Wouldn't the Guardians put in some sort of checks within the rings of these rookies so they couldn't go amok?

Starfire is completely shocked by this sudden murderous spree but Karkum says she has her reasons.

Starfire's shock turns to rage when she is shown how the Psions procreate. Psion females are prisoners in centers called Breeding Nexus. They are chained and raped and forced to breed. They have quotas they need to reach, specifically of male progeny they need to meet.

Karkum suffered there as these other women have but her spirit was never broken. That strength of character is what led the ring to her.

This is such an awful scene. It really made me cringe. It makes the Psions that much more loathsome.

Disgusted, enraged ... maybe because it forces her to face her own degradations, Starfire lashes out at the Psion troops there. And Green Lantern Karkum does as well. They wade through the Nexus, slaughtering Psions as they go.

These are brutal scenes of mayhem, Psions being hewn, blasted, and immolated. I am not used to seeing heroes do this. But the Psions deserve it ... right?

With the Nexus about to be overrun by the heroes, the Psion leader uses a self-destruct device to destroy the Breeding cell.

The Psion women within the Nexus are dead ... but free.

Once the adrenaline has worn off, once her rage has passed, Starfire cries.

Is it because this dredged up awful memories? Is it because she just killed? I think of Kory as a warrior but not a murderer. Regardless of why she is crying, I thought it was a very nice piece of characterization, subtle but important.

Back at the LEGION headquarters, Starfire angrily confronts Dox who had recently signed a contract to protect the Psion world. Dox is talking to a Psion leader, trying to smooth over the Starfire incident.

But Starfire won't have it. With one steely look, she forces Dox to annul the contract.

When Starfire was added to the book, I thought her passion would make her a nice foil to Dox. She is a different type of leader; she has a different type of strength, an emotional fortitude. So it was good to see this friction. It was good to see her influence Dox like this.

While the Psions lost one Breeding Nexus, the race has many. And more importantly, they remain a threat. One of their Nexus sites appears to be a cloning station of Lobo. It looks like we are going to see a brawl soon. Hopefully we will get to see the whole R.E.B.E.L.S. team in action.

It is hard to know how I feel about this particular issue. On one hand, it is another issue where we didn't see the characters which founded this book. On the other, it was a powerful story which showcased Starfire and her place in the team nicely. Her own history mirrors the atrocities we saw on the Psion world. Can the R.E.B.E.L.S. make cultural changes on the worlds within their grasp? With the team taking on a bigger role in the galaxy maybe we will see the whole team shine soon.

Claude St. Aubin does his usual solid stuff on art. But Kevin Sharpe does a  nice job on some fill-in pages. Lush stuff by Sharpe here.

Overall grade: B


mathematicscore said...

I rather like this book dealing with Green Lanterns; It makes the DC cosmos feel connected. I mean, why wouldn't the GLC be concerned with what was going on in L.E.G.I.O.N.s corner of the universe?

I concur that a large cast has been stretched a bit thin, but I also feel like Bedard hasn't completely forgotten them either.

Anj said...

I rather like this book dealing with Green Lanterns; It makes the DC cosmos feel connected. I mean, why wouldn't the GLC be concerned with what was going on in L.E.G.I.O.N.s corner of the universe?

Thanks for the post.

I can understand this viewpoint. But every page on Oa, showing the Green Lanterns in action, are pages not showing the REBELS cast.

As a Wildfire/Dawnstar fan, I really liked the concept of Wildstar. But we haven't seen her in this title in some time.

But how can you not want to tap into the buzz that GL has now. Maybe this is bringing in more readers (although sales are remarkably stable).