R.E.B.E.L.S. #1

Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Andy Clarke
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

One of the very first "DC Universe" books I ever started reading was L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89, DC’s "present day" precursor to the Legion of Super-Heroes, spinning out of their Invasion! mini-series event. It was a lot of fun, a mixture of space opera, manipulative bastards you love to hate, and out-and-out silliness. Most people probably remember L.E.G.I.O.N. as the book that made Lobo an insanely popular character, but for me it’s got to be the founder of the organization, Vril Dox. Clearly I’m not the only one who feels this way, since he’s back and the lead of the new R.E.B.E.L.S. series—but will anyone else notice?

Vril Dox is on the run; someone has taken over L.E.G.I.O.N., the intergalactic police force that he helped found decades earlier. Fleeing to Earth, he’s got a very specific mission in mind, one that requires Supergirl and information that she doesn’t even know she’s been carrying for 1000 years. But will a burst of information be enough to save him from a strike force that can track his every move and is prepared to use whatever force necessary to bring him back in?

Tony Bedard is probably still carrying around a lot of fans for his work on the outer space comic Negation, and reading the first issue of R.E.B.E.L.S. is probably going to make them very happy. He’s already introducing a cast of varied characters, and it was juggling that large cast that I think he did so well during his time on Negation. Hopefully the book will depart Earth quickly; the fact that we’re already getting outer space scenes gives me hope, if nothing else, because I think it’s when Bedard gets to change the setting to strange, weird places that he can really start cooking. As for what’s already familiar I have to give him credit for nailing the "voice" of Vril Dox; incredibly intelligent, arrogant and dismissive, but at the same time the master manipulator. So often it’s that latest bit that is left out, but Bedard uses it well here, having Vril play Supergirl with the greatest of ease. It’ll certainly make fans of L.E.G.I.O.N. happy. It’s a fast-paced, extended chase scene, but there are just enough little touches of cleverness here and there that make me want to see just what Bedard has up his sleeve next.

I really liked Andy Clarke’s art on some Detective Comics fill-ins a few years ago, and it looks like Clark has just kept getting better since then. It’s a very detailed, meticulous look, bringing to mind artists like Travis Charest. But while Clarke takes care to draw the individual hairs on a character’s head, at the same time he’s also able to put in a lot of expression into his art. I love how he draws Dox’s stony-faced looks, for instance; he always seems slightly irritated and annoyed by everything going on around him, which is just perfect for the character. Clarke’s also good with the technology on display in this issue; the outer space scenes with the Omega Men are wonderfully alien and bizarre, while Dox dismantling the machines in Antarctica look puny and old-fashioned in direct comparison. A couple of the scenes look a little stiff, but that’s something that with time I think will get worked out. It’s a little surprising Clarke hasn’t had a regular series before now, but I think with R.E.B.E.L.S. they’ve found the perfect fit for his talents.

Last but not least, I can’t help but mention the title. After running 70 issues, the original L.E.G.I.O.N. was cancelled and replaced with R.E.B.E.L.S., a title that lasted for just a year and a half. Now admittedly this book (like the old R.E.B.E.L.S.) has Dox on the run from his own organization, but I can’t help but worry that the clunky title (periods and all) might scare new readers away. Surely there was a snazzier title that could have been trotted out? It’s too bad, too, because I think this could be a comic that could survive in today’s market; fast-paced opening issue, fun group of characters, gorgeous art. Here’s hoping it’ll succeed.

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