Wednesday, January 12, 2022

R.E.B.E.L.S. #28

R.E.B.E.L.S. #28 (July 2011)
title: Starstruck, Conclusion
writer: Tony Bedard
penciller: Claude St. Aubin
inker: Robert Campanella
colors: Tanya Horie; Richard Horie
letters: Travis Lanham
editor: Brian Cunningham
cover: Aaron Lopresti

Recap:  Dox was returning from a date with Blackfire when his ship came under attack by Starro's agent, Smite, who incapacitated Tribulus. Storm-Daughter abducted Dox and took him before Starro on the newly conquered homeworld of the Psions. Meanwhile, Lobo was at a bar when he caught the scent of Czarnian pheromones nearby. Believing that he killed every member of his race, he confronted her but the woman turned out to be Starro's agent, Storm-Daughter. She had sprayed herself with pheromones and easily distracted Lobo with a kiss. It created the opportunity for her to drug him so she could absorb his energy and use it to restore Starro's strength.

Lobo recovered and reported the incident to Adam Strange, who was gathering everyone for a mission to retrieve Dox. Lobo refused to wait for them and charged ahead to find Storm-Daughter because he had her scent. Fortunately, Wildstar could track Lobo, which would help them in locating Dox, but Lyrl was left behind in hope that he could save Tribulus. After arriving on Psion, Lobo quickly defeated Storm-Daughter and Starro sent Smite to deal with him. 

While they fought, Starro returned to Rann with a possessed Vril Dox. Blackfire was unable to fend off their attack and Starro quickly possessed most of the population. Adam Strange and the others set course to return to his adopted homeworld while Brainiac 3 worked on saving Tribulus.

Starro and Vril Dox, who is still under the control of a starfish, battle Adam Strange and his strike team on Rann. Captain Comet does not react well when the villain declares his intention to make both Blackfire and Starfire his concubines.
Starro suddenly feels weaker, and we learn that its tied to the arrival of Tribulus, who is fighting the starfish enslaved citizens of Rann. Brainiac 3 explains that the beast's mental lightning is not merely electric.
Brainiac 3 cannot control Tribulus directly like his father did, but the chip on the back of Vril Dox's head that he uses to control the beast acts as a lure.

Meanwhile, on the planet Psion, Amon Hakk and his team discover that Lobo and Smite have paused from their battle to share a few drinks at a bar. Smite has grown resentful over how Starro used Storm-daughter and no longer feels any loyalty towards his former boss. He takes them to the transporter that Starro used to go to Rann so that Amon and the others can follow.

On Rann, Tribulus has finally tracked down Vril Dox just as Starro is placing one of his starfish on Captain Comet. Tribulus' mental lightning has the effect Brainiac 3 hoped for and the starfish detach from both Dox and Comet.

Dox is free of Starro's control and reestablishes his connection to Tribulus, but not before Starro sends a command to the citizens of Rann that are under his control. Adam Strange sees his father-in-law, Sardath, raise a knife to his own throat and realizes the order that Starro has given to the people of his adopted homeworld.
At Dox's command, Tribulus beats Starro until he stumbles into a transmat portal that Dox has activated. Dox is confidant that what awaits Starro on the other side is a fate worse than death.
With Starro gone, the people of Rann are freed from his control. One week later, everyone gathers for a special ceremony.
At the same time, Captain Comet comes to terms with the fact that Starfire does not share his feelings, while Adam Strange and his wife discuss whether Brainiac 3's assistance means that Lyrl has truly changed, or if he merely wants to ensure that no one kills his father but him. Elsewhere in L.E.G.I.O.N. headquarters, Lyrl says goodbye to Tribulus, noting that he shares one quality with both his father and Lobo, they all live outside the narrow conventions defining "good" and "evil." 

Surprisingly, Vril Dox seems almost smitten with Blackfire, who has taken to calling him her consort. But their flirtation is interrupted when word is received that Oa has gone dark and something has taken control of the Green Lantern Corps.
This was a solid conclusion to the series, although one significant thread in this final storyline was left unresolved in this finale: the fate of the Czarnian clones that Starro created. That was certainly leading somewhere, but their existence was only briefly referenced when Smite escorted Amon and the others to the transmat portal and was surprised to discover that the clones were missing

I also have to note that I did not get my greatest wish of seeing the secondary cast play a greater role. Bedard did a wonderful job early in the series of of introducing some fascinating characters, like Wildstar, Ciji, and Xylon. Particularly Xylon, who offered us the first opportunity to see a Dominator as one of the protagonists in a DC comic. Unfortunately, they all seemed to get pushed aside some time ago in favor of more established DC heroes, like Adam Strange, Captain Comet, and Starfire. 

I understand how these heroes could be viewed as more "marketable," and I suspect this change of direction was driven by editorial. But the greatest strength of the original L.E.G.I.O.N. series was how well it developed a cast of mostly unknowns. The stakes often seemed bigger, since those heroes could be killed off permanently, as happened with Lyrissa Mallor, whereas no one could seriously believe that DC would permanently kill of Starfire.

On a more positive note, the focus on more well established heroes as the series progressed did lead to L.E.G.I.O.N. establishing its headquarters on Rann, and the arrival of Blackfire with her people. Those were both interesting developments, and gave us our biggest surprise, the blossoming relationship between Blackfire and Vril Dox. They are both manipulative and power hungry by nature, but in this instance, they seemed to genuinely be attracted to each other.

Sadly, we would not get any follow-up on their fate as a couple, or any further development on most of these characters, as the conclusion of the series was soon followed by the New 52. I am not terribly knowledgeable on things DC-related since then, but it appears that while L.E.G.I.O.N. may exist in the current DCU, any details as to its nature remain in limbo. Which is really a shame. The L.E.G.I.O.N. has often felt that it existed in its own special corner of the DCU, but each incarnation found ways to exploit DC's vast history. We got to explore the cosmic side of the DCU more than it had ever been before, even in the Green Lantern titles. We got to see new sides of previously one-dimensional races such as Khunds and the Dominators, and see traditional villains like Blackfire and Despero play the role of allies. Most significantly, we got Vril Dox, one of the most fascinating, manipulative, cold-blooded "heroes" to ever lead a mainstream DC title.

Hopefully, DC will return to these characters some day, but until then I will continue to miss Vril Dox, Strata, Stealth, Lyrissa Mallor, Phase, Lar Gand, Lady Quark, Telepath, Marij'n Bek, Garv, Lydea Mallor, Amon Hakk, Tribulus, Lyrl Dox, Xylon, Ciji, Bounder, Wildstar, and all the rest. Probably not Garryn Bek though...that guy was really annoying.

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