We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming in order to bring you this special bulletin.
Today’s post is a part of Read This Too, a massive crossover in which myself and other comic book bloggers bring to your attention great books that have flown under the radar.
So what’s my pick? The criminally underrated R.E.B.E.L.S. from DC Comics.
Written by Tony Bedard (sound familiar?) and most often illustrated by Claude St. Aubin, R.E.B.E.L.S. deals with Vril Dox, son of Brainiac, and his varied compatriots…all of whom hate his guts.
A bit of background information: Dox is the head of L.E.G.I.O.N., the Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network (not to be confused with the Legion of Super-Heroes), a group of peacekeepers-for-hire. In the past, L.E.G.I.O.N. turned on Dox, and he had to form R.E.B.E.L.S., the Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eradicate L.E.G.I.O.N. Supremacy. (That’s a lot of goddamned words, especially if you expand the acronym within it.) The original R.E.B.E.L.S. series in the early 1990s dealt with Dox’s attempts to regain control of his organization by any means necessary.
The new R.E.B.E.L.S. book kicks off much the same way, as Dox is on the run from his own forces. He forms a new generation of R.E.B.E.L.S., but the acronym is only mentioned in passing, as a bit of a joke. This time around, he forms the new team because his future descendant Querl Dox (better known as Brainiac 5) told him to, as a specific group of heroes was critical to the timeline. Naturally, Dox tweaked the formula a bit, instead choosing members that would suit his own needs. The timeline be damned!
The first year of stories dealt with Starro. We’d always thought the giant alien starfish were trouble enough, but R.E.B.E.L.S. reveals that they’re just lackeys who serve an alien overlord dubbed Starro the Conqueror, who is a much larger threat than anyone could have realized. Following that, Vril Dox had to deal with the usual galactic diplomacy, plus his son Lyrl (aka Brainiac 3) and their ultrapowerful patriarch returning to conquer their homeworld of Colu.
Oh, and since this is a Green Lantern blog, I bet you’re wondering about the Corps’ place in all of this…
The universe already has a peacekeeping force in the Green Lantern Corps, and they’re not pleased with Dox edging his way in. In fact, upcoming issues will deal with the Corps fighting a turf war with Dox and crew. Like both sides don’t have enough to worry about already!
Green Lantern references aside, why should you read R.E.B.E.L.S.? Put simply, it’s just a fantastic science fiction comic book. Tony Bedard excels at writing gripping science fiction deftly mixed with humor and action, and his character development is excellent. Even though R.E.B.E.L.S. takes place within the DC Universe, familiarity with said universe isn’t required. Other DC Universe events are mentioned from time to time, but you need not be following them in order to enjoy R.E.B.E.L.S.. Issues #10 and #11 actually crossed over with the mega-popular Blackest Night, but even if you weren’t reading that story, you still wouldn’t get lost.
The artwork accompanying Bedard’s prose is a perfect match. Claude St. Aubin’s handled most of it, but even the few fill-in artists that have drawn the book have been up to snuff. Action sequences pop right off of the page, and character interaction is drawn with detail and emotion, as well it should be.
The big highlight of R.E.B.E.L.S. is, of course, Vril Dox. He’s one of the biggest assholes in comics, and you can’t help but love him for it. Dox’s heritage makes him far more intelligent than most people, which of course makes him exceedingly arrogant. (Think Lex Luthor’s attitude on steroids, minus the anti-Superman insanity.) He also has no qualms about screwing people over in order to meet his own ends, and he’s unfortunately rather realistic in the face of certain death.
Not exactly inspiring words for the troops, are they? These are but a few of the reasons why Dox’s comrades hate him, but they stick with him because his intellect almost always guarantees success. (That, and they’re rather well paid.) Aside from generally being a douchebag and treating others like shit, Dox even had the audacity to make a joke about Despero’s dick.
Yes, Despero, the alien tyrant who could tear most superheroes apart without breaking a sweat. And Dox cracks wise about his royal junk!
In keeping with R.E.B.E.L.S. tradition, plenty of guest stars have shown up for the ride, joining Dox’s team for one reason or another. Cosmic mainstays like Starfire, Captain Comet, and Adam Strange have all come on board, and Dox recently hired Lobo to deal with his wayward relatives. (Fun fact: Lobo was a star of the original R.E.B.E.L.S. book, so it’s only natural that he eventually returned to the new one.)
Since R.E.B.E.L.S. is a fantastic series, it has also fallen prey to the usual comic book inverse law: the sales are in the toilet. Even the Blackest Night tie-in and the guest star power hasn’t helped, so it’s in considerable danger of cancellation. Fortunately, now that you’ve read this post, you can do something about that. Get your ass to your friendly neighborhood comic book shop and pick it up! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Now, make sure you check out what the other bloggers participating in Read This Too have to say about their picks! You might just learn something.
- Dan Woodward covers Adam Strange: Planet Heist on It’s A Dan’s World.
- Doug Zawisza covers American Vampire on Doom Patrol and Booster Gold and Zatanna on Red Tornado’s Path.
- Eric Stettmeier covers Scott Pilgrim on Toyriffic.
- Erika Peterman covers Welcome to Tranquility on Girls Gone Geek.
- Kelson Vibber covers Astro City on Speed Force, and The Unwritten on K-Squared Ramblings.
- Luke Jaconetti covers glamourpuss on Being Carter Hall.
- Michael Bailey covers Peter David’s run on Hulk on Fortress of Baileytude.
- Rick covers Spire Christian Comics (with a focus on In His Steps) on Mail It To Team-Up.
- Rob! covers Son of Tomahawk and Thor the Mighty Avenger on Aquaman Shrine.
- The Irredeemable Shag covers Essential Man-Thing on Firestorm Fan, and Franklin Richards on Once Upon a Geek.
- Siskoid covers Strange Science Fantasy Siskoid’s Blog of Geekery.
- Acrobatic Flea covers Spelljammer on HeroPress.
- Vanessa covers Forgetless on Girls Gone Geek.
- Walter covers Jonah Hex on Boosterriffic.