Bedard Back in Space: Talking DC's R.E.B.E.L.S.

DC Comics is bringing back the classic L.E.G.I.O.N. in a new way with February's new ongoing series, R.E.B.E.L.S., by writer Tony Bedard with art by Andy Clarke.

"It's a very fast-paced action yarn with lots of planet-hopping, bizarre new characters and locations, and a whole new corner of the DC Universe to explore," Bedard said, adding that he pitched the series to DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio.

"Frankly, I’ve been dying to get Vril Dox (Brainiac 2) and his morally murky mercenaries back into the spotlight since I came to DC," he said. "I was a big fan of the original L.E.G.I.O.N. series back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and a fan of space opera in general. Books like Baron and Rude’s Nexus and Starlin’s Infinity Gauntlet and Dreadstar were a huge influence on me as a reader. So last year as some room began to open up in my schedule, I sent Dan Didio an email suggesting some possible new assignments, which included a L.E.G.I.O.N. pitch, and thankfully Dan went for it."

Reviving the L.E.G.I.O.N. concept originally conceived by Keith Giffen in the '80s, R.E.B.E.L.S. also introduces new characters and concepts along with paying homage to the Legion of Super-Heroes. "But I should really stress that if you’ve never read Legion of Super-Heroes or L.E.G.I.O.N., you will still have no trouble understanding this book," Bedard said. "R.E.B.E.L.S. is a fresh start, a true jumping-on point, and everyone’s invited to join in the fun."

R.E.B.E.L.S. will focus on Brainiac 2, Vril Dox, as he builds a new group of interstellar mercenary police. "As R.E.B.E.L.S. begins, Brainiac 2 arrives on Earth, pursued by alien bounty hunters. We learn he’s been deposed, his interstellar police force stolen from him," Bedard explained. "Unfortunately, someone took control of his vast robot armada away from Dox. Now the peacekeeping force has become an army of occupation, and there’s a price on Dox’s head."

As a result, Dox comes to Earth seeking Supergirl, who "somehow holds the key to his comeback," the writer said, although he wouldn't give all the secrets away.

"With what she provides him, he will recruit a whole new team, take back control of L.E.G.I.O.N., and free the 83 worlds that paid him to keep them safe," Bedard said. "Well, that’s his intent, anyhow, but there are more than a few surprises ready to dash the best-laid plans of Brainiac 2. And since his new team is fighting against the forces of L.E.G.I.O.N., we’re going with the more apt title, R.E.B.E.L.S."

Bedard said that while the original L.E.G.I.O.N. team was set up as a sort of present-day analog of the Legion of Super-Heroes -- "you could even say they were a twisted reflection of the LSH," he said -- the new team reflects both heroes and villains of the 31st Century.

"It ends up making sense, but you’ll have to read the book to see just why Dox recruits this particular bunch," Bedard said. "The cover shows the core squad he’ll be working with, though it takes a few issues for him to gather them up.

"The one member who returns from the original series is Strata, who hails from the same race as the classic Legionnaire, Blok," he said. "The rest are new characters that I think both Legion fans and new readers will really get a kick out of. Their names are Wildstar, Bounder, Tribulus and the Emerald Princess, and you’ll have to check out R.E.B.E.L.S. to get to know them."

While the team is a reflection of the team from the 31st century, Bedard emphasized that R.E.B.E.L.S. is "not a version of the Legion of Super-Heroes, nor a continuation or spin-off of that book."

"It’s not a precursor to the LSH, either," he said. "R.E.B.E.L.S. is its own thing, and it will assume its own importance in the DCU as our saga unfolds. Nevertheless, it does draw some inspiration from my favorite team of 31st Century heroes, and if you were ever a Legion fan, there’s plenty here to scratch that itch. But it’s kind of like watching Battlestar Galactica. If you remember the original, it adds a layer of enjoyment to see how some of the old designs and concepts and characters have been re-imagined. But you needn’t have watched the original to enjoy the hell out of the new one."

And while the problem of his stolen robot troopers compels Dox to set up his new team, it also provides the comic with its new villain.

"This is actually one of the coolest mysteries of R.E.B.E.L.S. because Dox doesn’t know who stole L.E.G.I.O.N. from him. He’ll come to find out soon enough that this new villain is strangely familiar in some ways, and yet an absolute surprise," Bedard said. "In fact, the arrival of our new villain will herald a major event in our corner of the DCU, as this menace is an order of magnitude beyond anything Brainiac 2 has ever faced. We’re talking about a true cosmic baddie, a sort of Thanos of the DCU – a galactic threat with a really cool origin and modus operandi. We have some big plans for this villain and you’ll be hearing more about them soon. For now, that’s all I’ll say.

"The stakes for Brainiac 2 and his Rebel strike-force will get higher and higher as we reveal the true magnitude of what they’re up against. Six heroes fighting for their lives in the wildest, most dangerous sector in space, with a conflict that could consume not just their homeworlds, but Earth as well," the writer said.

Bedard, who received accolades for another cosmic series he created at CrossGen, Negation, was enthusiastic about the chance to explore DC's cosmic characters, particularly Vril Dox, who he called "one of the most fascinating and fun characters in the DC Universe."

"He’s a completely ruthless bastard who makes Machiavelli look like Mother Teresa," he said. "Still, at the end of the day, Dox usually does the right thing, even if he has to shoot your dog to get it done."

Vril Dox's origin was traditionally as the clone of Brainiac, created as his lab assistant and regarded as Brainiac’s “son” until he rebelled and founded L.E.G.I.O.N. with some fellow prison escapees during the Invasion! crossover saga.

However, Bedard admitted that some of the specifics of Dox's origin may have changed because of the new revelations about Brainiac in recent Action Comics issues.

"I’m happy to follow Geoff Johns’ lead on that, mostly because Action has been such an amazing read lately," Bedard said. "But in general I regard Dox as Brainiac’s wayward ‘son,’ doing what he can to counter the negative aspects of his lineage. Of course, Brainiac 2 has a rather cynical, take-no-prisoners approach to everything he does, and he’s far from anyone’s standard idea of what a hero ought to be, which is what makes him so much fun to write."

The writer also thinks the series goes hand-in-hand with the existing Green Lantern Corps, calling the R.E.B.E.L.S. team "a perfect counterbalance."

"The GLs are the height of heroic altruism; Dox and company are in it for the money," he said. "They’re antiheroes, and R.E.B.E.L.S. will serve up a very different brand of space epic – more Farscape than Star Trek, more Han Solo than Buck Rogers."

And while Bedard's obviously excited about the concept and characters, he said the thing that excites him the most is the art he's seeing from Clarke.

Wildstar

"He’s been around, doing some really nice stuff on issues of Detective Comics and the recent Joker’s Asylum: Two Face special, but R.E.B.E.L.S. is Andy’s coming out party," he said. "The thing that will grab you from the start is how unbelievably gorgeous the book is! I’m incredibly lucky to be paired up with Andy Clarke, whose art just pops off the page. His exquisitely rendered figures bring to mind Travis Charest and Kevin Maguire, but I don’t want to compare him to others, because Andy’s work shines on its own merits. Take a look and you’ll see. He’s designed some terrific new characters and his spaceships and alien worlds are packed with great little details and nuances."

While Bedard has been DC exclusive since 2007, first working on Countdown as part of a team of writers then taking over various other ongoing series, he said R.E.B.E.L.S. feels like his first chance to really show his talents at DC.

"While I’m very proud of the work I’ve done on books like Birds of Prey and the Black Canary series, I’ve sometimes felt like I haven’t really shown DC what I’m capable of," he said. "R.E.B.E.L.S. is where I’m planting my flag (though I suspect I’ll be rightly outshined by Andy Clarke‘s stellar visuals!). Before this, my best collaborative experience might’ve been on Negation, which was a bit of a cult hit from CrossGen. R.E.B.E.L.S. recaptures the insurgent energy and “Oh, $#!t!” moments that made Negation so much fun, but now I’m let loose in the DC Universe.

"R.E.B.E.L.S. is the start of something big, both story-wise and for rising star Andy Clarke," Bedard said. "Check out our first issue, and you’ll be in for the ride of your life!"

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