Wednesday, December 1, 2021

R.E.B.E.L.S. #22

R.E.B.E.L.S. #22 (January 2011)
title: "To Be a R.E.B.E.L., Part 1"
writer: Tony Bedard
penciller: Claude St. Aubin; Kevin Sharpe
inker: Bob Wiacek
colors: Tanya Horie; Richard Horie
letters: Travis Lanham
editor: Brian Cunningham
cover: Francis Portela & Javier Mena

Reviewer: Mike "Nostalgic Kid" Lane

Recap: Just as their battle with Brainiac ended, Vril Dox and his son, Lyrl, were confronted by two members of the Green Lantern Corps, Altin Admos and Gorius Karkum. Dox had Lobo attack them, but Admos was hesitant to fight at first because his people held Lobo in such high esteem as a warrior. He soon overcame his reluctance and saw this as a chance to prove himself. Neither Admos nor Karkum were able to get the upper hand, but Admos' pride kept him from calling the Corps for assistance. Their fight was eventually interrupted by the arrival of a L.E.G.I.O.N. armada and a large contingent of the press. Dox broadcast a message portraying L.E.G.I.O.N. as bringing order and prosperity to their member words, and Green Lanterns as a rogue organization imposing the laws of Oa with no regard for local statutes. His speech worked, and the Guardians called both Admos and Karkum before them to explain their reckless actions.

After Admos explains how their fight with Lobo occurred, the Guardians turn their attention from Green Lantern Altin Admos to his partner, Rookie Gorius Harkum, and demand that she explain her actions against her own people.
She informs them that after their failed attempt to arrest Vril Dox, he playing to the news cameras while they prepared to withdraw. But she noticed Starfire among them, a being who had long fascinated her. When Starfire noticed her staring, Karkum fled.

Days later, Starfire visited the planet Norvath, which was considering L.E.G.I.O.N. membership, when she noticed Karkum hiding among the people and confronted her.
She told Starfire that she knew of her fate at the hands of her people and that it was hers as well. The two travelled to a prison on the planet Psion, where they were greeted by several Psion guards. They demanded Karkum's surrender and advised Starfire not to interfere because they had just signed a contract with the L.E.G.I.O.N., meaning she should be protecting them from Karkum. Their cockiness was a mistake.
Starfire was caught off guard by her actions, but understood after she was shown who the men had imprisoned. Karkum explained that most Psion women are killed at birth and the rest are placed in containment facilities like this one, where they are kept alive for breeding. Every woman is raped until she produces a quota of offspring, and this was Karkum's fate until she was chosen as a Green Lantern.
Karkum and Starfire battled the guards, killing every one, even as they kept coming. But the guards turned out to be a mere distraction to give the Psions the opportunity to destroy the entire prison. The woman prisoners were killed, and Karkum was at least relieved to see their suffering end.  But Starfire was driven to even greater rage and returned to Rann to confront Dox.
The Psions were not happy with the cancellation of their L.E.G.I.O.N. contract or the loss of a breeding nexus, but were relieved that the actions of Starfire and Karkum did not jeopardize a special project taking place on Psion.
I do not recall ever seeing such a look of sheer terror on Vril Dox's face in any of the three L.E.G.I.O.N.-related series that came close to matching his expression when Starfire burst in. It was very satisfying to see that even Dox has a point where he can become fearful enough to not even bother with his usual attempts at manipulation and instead just abandon whatever plans he had at work.

My reaction to the overall issue is somewhat mixed. I do think sexual abuse is a topic that should be addressed in fiction, but its also needs to be handled with care and a monthly superhero or science fiction comic is not necessarily the best setting for that. On the other hand, they did not shy away from the horror or brutality of it, as difficult as it was to read Karkum's story. And this is an aspect of Starfire's history that has been mentioned before, albeit often less bluntly than here. While a monthly comic may not lend itself to the most thoughtful or in depth discussion of such a topic, it is important that if this sort of abuse is part of a story, at least lifelong trauma experienced by victims is acknowledged as it was here.

Starfire has always been shown to be a warrior, but their fight against the Psion guards was not a typical battle, even if they were being attacked. It came off more as a slaughter, with her and Karkum letting out years of pent-up rage and frustration. It was certainly justified, and what the Psion men had done was truly evil. But it was still unsettling to read.

One thing all of the L.E.G.I.O.N.-related titles have been good at is adding new layers of depth to races that have long been part of the DCU. They did it with the Khunds and the Dominators by adding members of those races to the team, allowing us to see more depth and diversity among their people. Nothing in this issue suggested that the Psion men were anything other than the monsters they have always been portrayed, but we did learn that the female of the species possess a level of empathy not common to the men. I am not familiar enough with Psion history to know if this has been established before, but it is an interesting aspect of their species.

It was nice to see a character other than Dox get a central role, but I still hope to see more of our cast get some attention. I am a little concerned that the prominence of two Green Lanterns over the last two issues may suggest this will not happen, and if I recall correctly, even more Lanterns will be arriving next issue. So please check back with me next issue to see if it will feel more like a Green Lantern or R.E.B.E.L.S book!



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