Scott Hanna tries ever so hard to make Geraldo Borges look like a distant relative of Andy Clarke, the original artist of this series whose stippled plastic linework has led him to bigger and better things (like a stint on “Batman and Robin” coming this spring). But Borges is no Clarke. He’s just yet another a line of disposable, interchangeable artists who operate in the current DC house style. See “Action Comics,” “Teen Titans,” and half a dozen other books for more of the same.
So the allure of “R.E.B.E.L.S.” #12 isn’t in the artwork, unless you find more-of-the-same, but-more-generic to be your style of choice. But at least the issue isn’t actually hampered by the bland artwork. It’s easy enough to read and clean enough to understand, if that’s all you’re looking to do.
And Tony Bedard takes advantage of the space-spanning scope of this comic, with his characters hopping through interstellar portals and zooming around the galaxy in starships. In the aftermath of the “Blackest Night” tie-in (which basically wraps up in the opening scene here, as the Black Lanterns are quickly dispatched), Vril Dox and his ever-expanding crew gather their resources for what will surely be an ultimate showdown between the good and the Starro.
Starro — who isn’t the giant sea star from space that we once knew and loved, but rather a variation on Warduke from the old “Dungeons & Dragons” cartoon who sends out mind-controlling starfish as he attempts total universal domination — is assembling his own team. Vril Dox has annoyed him long enough. So he’s drafting Vril Dox, Jr. into his army. Because these Brainiac kids tend to have daddy issues.
Bedard has a lot of space wheels in motion here, and it all seems to be building toward a Starro vs. almost-everyone-else showdown. The trick here is to make the build-up as interesting as the final confrontation, and Bedard doesn’t quite pull that off. We don’t get enough of each piece of the story in this issue, just little fragments that aren’t quite compelling enough on their own.
Except for the scene depicted on the cover. Despero’s head on a pike makes for a great image, even if Borges presents it in a less-dynamic way than Andrasofszky does. But the scene offers one of the few surprises in the issue, and Vril Dox talking to Despero’s head makes for a bit of vicious comedy. It’s the highlight of the issue, without a doubt.