If you’ve read any of the “L.E.G.I.O.N” or “R.E.B.E.L.S.” comics from the previous decade or two then you know what to expect here: Vril Dox — Brainiac 2 — along with a gaggle of strange space heroes and plenty of explosions and fisticuffs and surprises. Tony Bedard has recaptured the feeling of the best of those comics and launched this series with an ambitious, multi-layered political-action drama. By issue #5, this series has become pretty complex, with a wide range of characters with different motivations and plenty of ever-shifting alliances. It’s good stuff.
If you’ve never read any of the old “L.E.G.I.O.N.” series, then all you need to know is presented in the first five issue of this series, although I wouldn’t recommend starting with this particular issue. With the huge cast of characters and hardly any familiar touchstones of the DC Universe, this might be a tough read for a newcomer. Starro’s here, though, and perhaps that’s enough.
Bedard doesn’t use Starro — the evil, mind-controlling, giant starfish from outer space — in the standard way. It’s not the good guys vs. the giant sea creature. It’s not the little mind-controlling minions latching on to the skulls of the heroes (the one little Starro that tries that gets a face full of Wildstar energy). No, it’s a Frazetta-style death dealer with a great axe and a Starro on his chest. Is this the “real” Starro, finally revealed after all of these years? That might be the direction this story is going, like we’ve seen in last year’s “Action Comics” when we finally met the “real” Brainiac who was like the old green Braniac but bulkier and more Matrixy. I hope this armored D&D refuge isn’t supposed to be the real Starro, but he certainly thinks he is, cutting a swath through the devious Dominators with that mighty blade of his.
The best part of this comic, even since issue #1, has been the art. Much was made — by Tony Bedard and others — about artist Andy Clarke and his style that would surely make him a superstar. But Clarke doesn’t draw this issue, and he didn’t draw the last one either. Instead, it’s Claude St. Aubin, an artist who has never looked this good before. Scott Hanna embellishes St. Aubin’s pencils in a way that resembles the post-Moebius delicacy of what might be called the “European style.” Perhaps St. Aubin is attempting to draw like Clarke, but whether it’s his influence of Hanna’s, this art looks great. It has traditional superhero figures who look like they’ve been inked by Geoff Darrow. Well, maybe not quite that much detail, but there are more tiny dots and little lines here than in your average DC or Marvel space action comic.
The characters still need to be defined a bit more — with so many of them, it’s difficult for any of them to stand out, personality-wise — and the plot may be getting a bit too convoluted, but “R.E.B.E.L.S.” is still quite a good series and one that deserves your attention.