Monday, February 23, 2009

R.E.B.E.L.S. #1

While it's given the moniker of a team book, REBELS is really just a one-man show for Vril Doz, the arrogant jerk son of Brainiac. Although he's a terrific douchebag, the character has a certain charisma and charm about him that makes it tough to look away when he's on the page. Doz is never without a purpose and rarely lacking an accompanying verbal barb, which makes him constantly entertaining and effortlessly colorful. His back-and-forth with Supergirl this month is great, reminiscent of those rare occasions when Superman and Lex Luthor would unite to confront a common foe. Supergirl is so stiflingly naïve in contrast to Doz's intellect that his curt responses to her questions and comments provide some of the issue's best moments. You know he's just being a dick, but you'll still hold your breath waiting for the punchline every time she opens her mouth.

Although his cast is primarily rooted in the distant 31st century, writer Tony Bedard has plenty of fresh ideas that apply to the present-day DC universe, too. Using Supergirl's heat vision to burn data to a blank DVD, for example, might not be especially practical but it's an imaginative way to update an old character's power set without disturbing anything. Bedard is overflowing with such ideas, which makes the issue a real fresh read. Although he deals with some very intellectual ideas and characters, his writing is accessible, not daunting like you might expect.

Detective Comics and 2000AD veteran Andy Clarke is on board to provide artwork for the new series. Though I've found his previous showings to be rigid and postured, reminiscent of Greg Land, in REBELS it looks like he's trying something different. His efforts here are very fluid and natural, but still especially detailed – a mix of Travis Charest and Leinil Francis Yu. He tells a great story, with jaw-dropping freeze frames highlighting moments of action and subtle nuances thrown in to help keep the pace up during the moments in between. He's also responsible for furthering a lot of the characterization that's so crucial in a premiere issue, particularly that of Doz, the focal point of the book. His snide facial expressions, a constant mix of apathy and disdain, are a constant match for the tone of his dialog. Although Clarke doesn't exactly nail every character, (his Supergirl in particular leaves something to be desired) he does have a strong grip on the primary cast and his compositions as a whole are wonderful.

This issue keeps a brisk pace from cover to cover, throwing readers right into the action from the word go and never relenting until the last panel promises even bigger things on the horizon. It's a fine adventure, entertaining whether you're intimately familiar with the cast or the only thing you recognize is the shield on Supergirl's chest, and a fine initial outing from both writer and artist. Buy it and keep your eyes peeled for the next issue.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.5

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