Does anyone else remember how great those early issues of “L.E.G.I.O.N.” were? Keith Giffen, Alan Grant, and Barry Kitson’s collaboration hit all the right notes from the very first issue. A group of characters who didn’t trust each other but stuck together for safety and survival, constant intrigue and Machiavellian tactics, and (for those who knew what to look for) shout-outs to “Legion of Super-Heroes” in the form of a retroactive prologue. I mention all of this because reading “R.E.B.E.L.S.” makes it clear that Tony Bedard was a fan of those comics as well, and he’s doing a great job so far with evoking that same feel while pushing the book in its own direction.
Fans of “L.E.G.I.O.N.” will find some familiar faces like Vril Dox and Strata, but at the same time Bedard makes sure that a new reader will still know what’s going on. Bedard already has a firm grasp on how to write both of them; Dox in particular is as manipulative, slimy, and charming as ever. The old chestnut of “being able to sell snow to Eskimos” was practically invented for Dox, with his way to make readers cheer him on even as he performs both good and bad deeds. All, of course, in the name of furthering Dox’s own agenda. It’s been a while since there’s been a character I’ve loved to hate kicking around in comics, but Bedard is hitting it just right. “Legion of Super-Heroes” will also have a good time with the nods to their future-setting; Wildstar is an unlikely mix of concepts from that book, but I have to give Bedard credit that it somehow feels right almost instantly. And, while I’m not familiar with the Omega Men, he’s already doing a good enough job of introducing them that I’m happy with how he’s handling them. This is just the right way to use old continuity without making it feel incomprehensible for anyone who’s just coming on board.
Andy Clarke and Jose Villarrubia are kicking the art into high gear here. I love the tight lines of Clarke’s art and how it manages look highly detailed without sacrificing a sense of motion or action. When the men of Starhaven first assault Vril Dox, it’s almost textbook storytelling. The first panel of Dox assuring them that everything is fine is beautifully composed with the character at rest. Then, with the second panel having them assaulting Dox, Clarke not only gets that sense of movement perfectly on the page, but it helps illustrate the passage of time between the first panel and the second, as if they’ve jumped from beyond the edges of the panel to assault Dox. Villarrubia’s colors are a great match for Clarke’s art, using stippling to add that extra level of texture and gentle grace to Clarke’s character designs. This works especially well with moments like Wildstar’s face behind the visor, with all those little dots of color bringing her features to life. It’s a great effect, and hopefully the two will work together for quite some time to come.
If you were scared off by the clunky title, don’t be. “R.E.B.E.L.S.” is a remarkably strong book; it’s the best work I’ve seen from Bedard and Clarke, and they just keep getting better every issue. Trust me, check it out, you’ll love it.