Between the Panels: REBELS v2

REBELS v2 #1-18
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Andy Clarke and Claude St. Aubin

DC Comics has been building a rich science fiction mythos since the 1950s with characters like Captain Comet and Adam Strange. In the 1960s, we were given the futuristic teen team the Legion of Super-Heroes. In the 1980s, elements from the present day DC Universe and alien races introduced in Legion stories came together in an event called Invasion! In this story we were introduced to Vril Dox and a group of aliens all imprisoned by beings bent on invading the Earth. By the end, Dox and company escaped and would go on to form LEGION (Licensed Extra-Governmental Interstellar Operatives Network). These galactic peace-keepers would eventually be usurped by Dox’s rapidly intelligent newborn, Lyrl and form the REBELS (Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eradicate L.E.G.I.O.N. Supremacy). The entire series met with cancellation in the mid-90s, though the characters would continue to pop up from time to time. Recently, the concept was revived and it is hitting on all cylinders, making sure to avoid the mistakes of its predecessors.

The new series opens with Vril Dox being chased to Earth by his soldiers that used to work for him in LEGION. It’s quickly revealed that the majority of planets under LEGION’s protection have been taken over by the Star Conqueror, a parasitic species of starfish parasites that attach themselves to humanoid hosts and communicate collectively. Dox goes about recruiting aliens who have escaped the infestation, including his now adolescent son, Lyrl. The group works to defeat the Star Conqueror through schemes developed by Dox. Along the way he recruits Captain Comet, Adam Strange, Starfire, and many obscure alien species. The entire first year of the series is taken up by the battle with the Star Conqueror and, while that seems like a long time to stretch a story out it is very entertaining.

Vril Dox is one of those anti-heroic characters that is so much fun to read. He’s the son of Superman villain Brainiac, but instead of going for galaxy conquering through mechanical beasties like his pop, Dox has opted for using diplomacy and backroom deals to conquer. He does offer peace for the systems that get LEGION protection, but there always seems to be an interesting catch. More often than not, his schemes involve putting his closest comrades in the path of destruction without them being aware til the moment has passed. He also possess zero sentimentality, as exhibited in the way he doesn’t hesitate to turn on his equally nefarious son Lyrl.

Because the series is part of the shared DC Universe, its inevitable that big events will crossover. During Blackest Night, where black rings were resurrecting the dead, Dox encountered the deceased mother of his child, Stealth. The issue plays with some of the ideas Geoff Johns has developed with various colors of the Universal Spectrum, and Dox ends up in possession of a yellow Sinestro Corps ring for a short time. Another bit of fallout from the Green Lantern comics is that the Vega System, an area of space that was allowed to be autonomous for millenia is now opened up, and Dox quickly swoops in and gets involved in an arranged marriage with matriarch of Tamaran, Komand’r to bring the planet under the umbrella of LEGION. The most recent storyline finds Dox’s father, Brainiac being placed in a prison on their home planet Colu, but of course escaping and this time going after his offspring.

If you are looking for a fun space faring series that focuses on one of the smartest villains in DC this would be your thing. In addition to Dox, there was some interesting work done with Captain Comet recently. He was a superhero in the 1950s, who left earth in the early 60s, and returns to visit the graves of his family. There’s some interesting things being said about the cost of immortality when those around you aren’t, and it makes me hopeful to see the development of that character in the series as well.


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