Review: REBELS: The Coming of Starro trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

If you're like me, you have fond memories of Vril Dox trying to rescue an Eclipso-possessed Superman from a volcano alongside Guy Gardner and Lobo, and you understand what an unmitigated joy it is that writer Tony Bedard brings Vril Dox back to the page in R.E.B.E.L.S.:The Coming of Starro. When Dox finds his former L.E.G.I.O.N. teammate Strata and the two start talking about Strata's husband Garv, it nearly brought tears to my eyes; this is 1990s nostalgia at it's best, and if you don't agree then you don't have a heart.

[Contains spoilers for REBELS: The Coming of Starro and Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds]

Bedard's REBELS has much in common with his short stint on Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Here, as in there, Bedard gets nitty-gritty with alien politics; both the Dominators, again, and also the Citadel, the Durlans, the Khunds, and more (not to mention the Omega Men). These are old-school, Invasion-era DC Comics aliens (the original LEGION having also stemmed from Invasion) and it's what quickly differentiates REBELS from Green Lantern Corps* -- Corps so far has largely been from writers Dave Gibbons and Peter Tomasi's imaginations, while REBELS feels firmly and enjoyably rooted in established DC Comics space-faring lore.

(* News of the day as I'm writing this is that Bedard is taking over writing chores on Green Lantern Corps, so it'll be interesting to see whether some of the classic DC aliens begin filtering over, and how soon until we have a Corps/REBELS crossover [throw in a new Darkstars title, and it'll be just like old times].)

The best part of Vril "don't call him Brainiac 2" Dox has always been his know-it-all self-righteous smugness, in a way easier to enjoy than Batman's emotionally-damaged grim and grittiness. Bedard has Dox's voice down pat, indistinguishable from Keith Giffen or Mark Waid before him; but Bedard also takes the opportunity to demonstrate how Dox has changed. For longtime fans, that Dox actually asks Strata to "please" help him regain control of a sabotaged L.E.G.I.O.N. is astounding; there's some sense here that replacing his former teammates with robot drones has left Dox almost lonely. Dox is a jerk, but he feels honor-bound to help the planets that have paid him for protection, and these two sides are entirely why he has and continues to work as this series' protagonist.

Starro also follows on Bedard's Legion run in that Supergirl and Brainiac 5 from that run figure strongly in tying this LEGION/REBELS incarnation to the group in the future. Here indeed Bedard even improves on the original LEGION's ties, and I thought his creation Wildstar (a mix of Legion couple Wildfire and Dawnstar) was especially inspired, as was his Bouncing Boy equivalent. It all only falls apart a little bit in that the Brainiac 5 that Bedard uses is pretty much out of continuity as of the end of Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds; I might have preferred to see him use Superman and the current incarnation of Brainiac 5 instead, though it would also be interesting for Bedard to try to explain away the Multiversal wrinkle in a story, too.

In addition, having already seen the demise of a LEGION/REBELS series once, I'm mildly afraid that Bedard has limited himself with this series. Having the LEGION characters on the run as REBELS is a good short-term concept, but eventually they essentially become the Omega Men; it seems to me there's a lot more story potential with Dox and the LEGION police force than Dox and the REBELS outlaw gang -- eventually they explain the situation to Superman and they're the LEGION again, right?

I'll also admit some disappointment with this new incarnation of Starro as an alien conqueror (who looks just a bit too much like Mumm-Ra the Everliving). There's not much to distinguish him from your run-of-the-mill alien world conqueror, and I found it a bit too convenient that Starro just happened to take over LEGION from Dox; there seems plenty easier ways to take over the universe. Bedard seems to posit Starro as the ongoing villain of REBELS, but I'm not convinced he can quite hold the series until we see more characterization.

Still, just when Rann/Thanagar: Holy War had me a little concerned about the state of DC's space comics, REBELS is a great "new" series, and has certainly earned my buck. Kudos to Tony Bedard for bringing back Vril Dox, and hey, long live the, uh, REBELS.
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2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review, CE! After recently switching to mostly trade-waiting myself I'd been wondering whether to jump on with REBELS - I think this has convinced me to give it a go.

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  2. Even as I consider dropping a slew of titles -- Teen Titans, JSA, Green Arrow, Outsiders -- I was heartened to find a new(ish) series that I really liked, REBELS. Hope you enjoy it too -- if you take a look, let me know what you think.

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