Wednesday, March 3, 2021

R.E.B.E.L.S. '94 #0

R.E.B.E.L.S. '94 #0 (October 1994) 
writer: Tom Peyer
penciller: Arnie Jorgenson & James Pascoe
inker: James Pascoe
colors: Stuart Chaifetz 
letters: Gaspar Saladino
editor: Dan Raspler
cover: Arnie Jorganson & James Pascoe

Reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Recap: As this is the first issue of this series, and it contains a recap of L.E.G.I.O.N. as part of its story, let's just skip this section this time!

Vril Dox leads his crew on a desperate raid against a L.E.G.I.O.N. supply freighter. His crew includes former L.E.G.I.O.N. members, and now fugitives, Phase, Stealth, Strata, Lobo, and Borbb. They are also accompanied by Telepath, although he remains under the control of Lyrl Dox, Vril's infant son who recently used widespread brainwashing to take over L.E.G.I.O.N. They have been using a ship from another time that crashed onto Cairn during the Zero Hour event, and Dox waits there while everyone else goes aboard the freighter for the supplies.

Not everyone is comfortable with their plan, especially Strata, who hates having to battle their former teammates. 
They successfully return to their ship with the supplies they need while avoiding any casualties, although Dox is not happy with how long it took. When they are hailed by a patrol ship, Telepath tries to call for help and explain that he is being held prisoner, but Dox quickly shuts him up. The patrol ship begins firing on them, and although their hull is strong, Dox realizes they cannot outrun them.
Lobo is impressed by Dox's ruthlessness, but Strata is horrified that he just murdered everyone aboard the patrol ship. She asks what they have become and Dox tells her that they are what they have always been, survivors.

On Cairn, the L.E.G.I.O.N. archivist, Alanash, remains hard at work recording the course of events. He has noticed that the police have become strangely hostile and suspicious, and always stop talking when he is within earshot. He has observed that they retain their old personalities, but that he can always hear a new one, which is cruel, willfully ignorant, and mindlessly obedient. Most civilians remain indoors and the shops are nearly deserted, but he can now work undisturbed. At least was working undisturbed before Amon Hakk arrived to bring him before Lyrl Dox. Amon is the Khundian recruit who proved himself to be very resourceful and quite loyal to L.E.G.I.O.N., at least until he fell victim to Lyrl's brainwashing.

Lyrl welcomes Alanash and compliments him for his very thorough and well-produced work. However, he also notes that the history as he has recorded it is not always helpful.
The recording begins with the story of Vril Dox II and his abusive father, Vril Dox I, the traitor to the planet Colu who served its computer tyrants. His son was artificially accelerated to maturity and forced to serve his father, but when his father escaped Colu to terrorize the galaxy as Brainiac, Vril was sentenced to life in the interplanetary prison camp, Starlag. (See the events of the Invasion! series.) When the recording notes that the fate of his mother, a slave, remains unknown, Lyrl explodes with anger because he had been told that his father was a clone.

The recording continues with Vril leading a prison breakout from Starlag. The escapees included Strata, Stealth, and Lyrissa Mallor. He then took his fellow escaped prisoners back to his homeworld of Colu, where he freed his people from the control of the Computer Tyrants. They then overthrew the drug lords that ruled Cairn and remade its corrupt police force into the interplanetary security agency known as L.E.G.I.O.N. Lyrl does not like how much significance is given to the role of his father and Lobo, and orders the archivist to replace them with himself and Lydea Mallor. Lydea is the daughter of Lyrissa Mallor and she has also been brainwashed by Lyrl.

The recording also tells of Stealth succumbing to an uncontrollable mating urge that led her to rape and murder Vril Dox, although scientists managed to transfer his consciousness to a clone body. Lyrl does not care for this story of his conception and orders it stricken from the record. He also does not care for the sections on how he was recovered from a kidnapper by his father or how many in L.E.G.I.O.N. thought his father had gone mad when he placed his infant son in charge of the team's administration wing. In any event, he tells Alanash that his records are being adjusted and will be returned, and he warns him that by now he should understand the historical slant he expects him to take in the future.

Alanash understands all too well, but finds himself haunted at the prospect of the truth being lost. He realizes that people will believe the lies and never know the true story of the L.E.G.I.O.N., but that he will. He also realizes that Lyrl Dox will eventually kill him, so he decides to take action.
Lydea launches the probe, assuming she saved it from being destroyed by his rampage. One of the troops shoots Alanash, but he finds comfort as he lay dying by the realization that the investigators will just assume from the destruction he caused that he just snapped. He knows that Lyrl will accept that verdict and feel relief at his death. Lyrl will believe that his death buried any secrets he wished to hide, without realizing that Alanash has just hidden the biggest one from him.
Back aboard their new ship, Lobo is throwing a tantrum over being cooped up for so long. Phase calls Dox to the front because she has noticed something odd on one of their screens, and she asks him what it means when it is covered with dots.
This is an interesting opening to the series in that it is a zero issue instead of a first issue. Each DC title at the time had a zero issue as a tie-in to Zero Hour, but for most of them, they were not a launching point for a new series. They were used in various ways, from retelling the origin to launching a new storyline. Peyer seemed to take advantage of the project as a way to recap the entirety of the L.E.G.I.O.N., which was probably a good idea, while trying to laying out the premise of this new title.

As I mentioned in wrapping up my L.E.G.I.O.N. coverage, I was very skeptical of the relaunch when it originally occurred. Relaunches are intended to bring in new readers, but this series was so closely tied to the events that occurred in L.E.G.I.O.N., it just felt like it was destined to lose more readers than it could bring on. And after revisiting it, I still think this particular issue was lacking in several ways.

Peyer did a good job of introducing us to Dox and Strata, as there was enough there to give us some idea as to their personalities. But they are pretty much the only members of the team a reader could really get to know. This is not necessarily a deal breaker for the series, in that L.E.G.I.O.N. spent its first few issues focused almost entirely on Dox before letting us get more familiar with the rest of the cast. Still, I feel like there was not enough characterization there to grab a new reader.

It also pains me to see characters like Lydea and Amon reduced to zombies. When the new recruits were introduced in L.E.G.I.O.N., they had a great deal of potential and were well-used for a while. Amon was a particular favorite of mine since he had far more depth than any Khund we had previously scene in the DC Universe. But except for Borrb, they were seriously neglected over the final dozen or so issues of that title, and nothing here suggests that is going to change anytime soon.

There are a few subplots that were still dangling at the end of L.E.G.I.O.N. that were not addressed here at all. It is still unclear to me if Lady Quark is dead or whether Marij'n is under Lyrl's control. And Captain Comet is still on a distant planet awaiting rescue while the team thinking he is dead. But I understand why those were not addressed here as it would probably complicate things too much for new readers. Nevertheless, it reinforces to me that it probably would have been better to resolve some of those before the relaunch.

I remain lukewarm towards the art team on this title. Jorgenson is a talented artist, but I have never quite warmed to this style. While it did not take away from my enjoyment of L.E.G.I.O.N., the art did not add much to it either. I am concerned that in R.E.B.E.L.S. it will be more of a detriment.

As you can probably tell, I am not feeling overly optimistic after reading this issue. I was pleasantly surprised at how much more I enjoyed the wrap up of L.E.G.I.O.N. than I did when I first read it, and was hopeful that might carry over into R.E.B.E.L.S. That is certainly still possible  since this is just one issue and I plan to keep an open mind.  Please check back with me next week and we will see if issue #1 makes a better impression!

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