R.E.B.E.L.S.: The Coming of Starro

March 20, 2010

The R.E.B.E.L.S. are back! Years after the DC universe re-rebooted and brought back interplanetary heroes such as Adam Strange, Captain Comet, and The Weird, it finally feels ready to seize its once top-of-the-line space drama by the horns. Except this time round, unlike the very late 1980s when it all began, the action opens in media res and leapfrogs right into the birth of R.E.B.E.L.S., with L.E.G.I.O.N. playing a supporting role. Vril Dox, aka Brainiac 2, is once more on the run after being ousted by stealth from the leadership of the law-enforcing L.E.G.I.O.N. But this Level 10 intellect (whatever that means) isn’t taking it all lying down and aims to bring the battle to his unknown enemies by assembling his personal strike force. Whether or not its members know that they have been recruited or that they will be used in ways they’d never agree to is a wholly different matter!

L.E.G.I.O.N. stands for Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network and R.E.B.E.L.S. for Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eradicate L.E.G.I.O.N. Supremacy. Writer Tony Bedard kindly helps you along from the start by differentiating L.E.G.I.O.N.  from the Legion (of Superheroes) and Brainiac 2 from Original-Recipe Brainiac and 31st-century Brainiac 5. Then he gets too smart by half by having Supergirl raise a question he isn’t going to answer: what is L.E.G.I.O.N.’s jurisdiction when there’s already the well-loved and highly effective Green Lantern Corps? Very good question, you know. It will haunt you when Bedard steadily ups the stake and throws in a range of DC alien species from the warrior race of Khunds, the Durlan shape-shifters, and the brainy Coluans to the Nosferatu-looking cast-based Dominators. The more new players the plot spits out, the simpler it feels as if suspension of disbelief isn’t holding up well. What, no Rannians or Thanagarians yet? No universe-consuming Lady Styx? No New Gods or stray Manhunters? And in which sectors of the universe is this playing out without a swift-arriving Green Lantern, or Yellow, Red, Blue, Black, what have you? Yes, that question again.

So you know halfway into the book that this isn’t going to pull together the way any limited series with Marvel’s cosmic sagas such as Annihilation, Annihilation: Conquest, and War of Kings has. The problem is with DC’s management of its universe which is partitioned to different groups — eg. Justice League, Adam Strange and friends, Green Lantern Corps — for distinct adventures with largely independent consequences. I say this knowing that the Blackest Night saga in later chapters hopes to remedy this a little. And not having something like Nova’s Xandarian Worldmind Database to provide standalone information does affect DC’s story flow too. Sudden insertions of entries from some Encyclopedia Galactica as voice-overs are very irritating, and they keep forcing you to take a step back from the narrative. In fact, at some point, I think that Bedard is enjoying writing an encyclopedia more than he does his own story. Case in point: do we need to be told again,, near the book’s ending, that team member Wildstar is from Starhaven and has intersellar tracking, flight, strength, and energy projection as powers?

The two things pegging this title on a lifeline now for me are its art and the character of Vril Dox only. The team of Andy Clarke, Claude St. Aubin, and Scott Hanna delivers an outstanding neo-pointist style that seems to want to allude to the realism of Kevin Maguire back when he drew for the now-classic Justice League International. The presentation suits the dark humour Bedard’s narrative aspires to, if Bedard himself can script it down as consistently as his artists. Meanwhile, to the author’s credit, Vril does come across rather successfully as a different kind of DC hero: Vril is a born leader, a coward, and a Machiavel rolled together with unhealthy doses of ambition, and he uses cunning, sweet talk, affection, and anything available to get people to give him what he wants because he’s that kind of an intellect. We are reminded that he’s still closer in time to his adopted father than to his descendant Querl Dox, and his ruthlessness and amoral opportunism make this point stick. But surely even he doesn’t deserve to face Starro the Conqueror — ie. Starro as Mongul. Whose dumb idea is this?

Gweek sticks 7 starros on his own face.

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One Response to “R.E.B.E.L.S.: The Coming of Starro”

  1. Johnrf Says:

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