When “R.E.B.E.L.S.” ended its first big storyline a year ago, with the defeat of Starro, most of us readers were curious as to what the new direction would be. Unfortunately, that new direction seemed at best to be… to not have much of one. Half the cast got forgotten, and those that remained drifted in and out at best.
Well, the wait is over, and the new new direction is the old direction as Starro returns to the center stage. But I’m all right with that.
Right off the bat, we’re getting a stronger focus in the book. Tribulus, Wildstar, and the rest of the original crew are suddenly back in the book, having seemingly been replaced by Adam Strange and Starfire once Starro was defeated. Storm-Daughter is kicking butt as Starro’s second in command. And we’re getting a good reminder on just why the Starro army is such a thoroughly deadly foe. Even Lobo is getting a much more interesting role here, and his placement in the book is crude, violent, and dangerous. In other words, just the way a Lobo appearance should be.
I think part of the entertainment here is that Tony Bedard understands the conventions of comic books, but isn’t afraid to step outside of the lines on occasion. So when Vril Dox is attacked by the forces of Starro, it’s a very classic fight sequence. Likewise, so is the reasoning for why he isn’t instantly turned into a slave of Starro. But at the same time, Bedard can still pull a surprise or two out of his sleeve, from the sudden felling of a member of the supporting cast, to a reminder that the bad guy doesn’t have to play by the rules (or be enormously stupid in regard to the heroes) all the time. There’s just enough of a surprise waiting in store to keep interest up.
Claude St. Aubin and Scott Hanna overall are doing a good job here. St. Aubin’s pencils continue to look well-proportioned and are expressive, and the fine details that Hanna’s inks provide are just beautiful, a reminder to Andy Clarke’s pencils from the early issues of “R.E.B.E.L.S.” My only complaint is in the opening scene with Vril plummeting through the air while flying characters attack; it feels almost like the pages were somehow chopped off too close to the art in places, with part of the action (or people’s bodies) outside of the panel edges. It’s a strange and uncharacteristic misstep from an art team that is normally much more reliable.
Overall, though, “R.E.B.E.L.S.” has gone from flagging to high-energy, and none too soon. Hopefully this rejuvenation of “R.E.B.E.L.S.” will continue in the months ahead. It’s a fun book and I’d hate to see it go away; with any luck, the return of Starro will bring on board the readership it deserves.