The cancellation of R.E.B.E.L.S. and Doom Patrol was announced months ago, but it’s becoming more of a reality these days, as both series are hurtling toward the release of their final issues in May.
Amongst the Blackest Nights and Brightest Days and 12 Batman-related titles and the Green Lantern juggernaut, DC has for the past two years been putting out two incredibly unique, entertaining, and unconventional team books in the form of R.E.B.E.L.S. and Doom Patrol. Team books are incredibly difficult to pull off: note how forcefully Justice League of America and Teen Titans have sucked over the past few years. Don’t get me started on the abomination that is Outsiders (which, mercifully, has also been cancelled, hopefully taking Dan DiDio’s writing career with it.)
R.E.B.E.L.S. had an anti-hero as a protagonist. And I don’t mean anti-hero in the sense that he’s a flawed man trying to do good but using questionable methods, I mean the guy’s an absolute dick lacking any sense of morality and he operates purely on self-interest. To wit:
The innocent young man and woman kind enough to give Vril Dox directions are now dead, and Vril Dox (the green-skinned “son” of Braniac you see above) is rather indifferent to the whole situation. He is a character that’s an irredeemable prick, and who builds a team consisting of some of the galaxy’s most hated races (Khunds, Durlans, Dominators, and one pretty nasty Czarnian). The enjoyment gotten out of R.E.B.E.L.S. is in watching these various races shake their heads at Dox’s moral vacuity, yet go along with his plans anyway. Tony Bedard, writer of the series, has a gift for sight gags, character moments, and twisty, unexpected plotting. Here’s hoping he gets another series worthy of his talents.
Twisty, unexpected plotting was/is a key feature in Doom Patrol, a series that follows a robot, a mummy, and a giant as they battle crime on a tropical island. All three characters are battling depression while struggling to break away from the influence and machinations of a wheelchair-bound Svengali. They fight black holes, bricks that used to be streets, porcelain women, and a group of high-society murderers called the Aristocrats:
Doom Patrol features a level of horror (and body horror) rarely seen in mainstream DC, which is balanced, incredibly, with light comedy and a touching family dynamic between the three main protagonists. The first issue features a new teammate being shot to death, with her body literally splattering apart:
And yet the series itself never becomes too grave. Doom Patrol always comes across as a light-hearted romp, no matter how brutal the proceedings or how miserable the characters become. Keith Giffen did a good job with this book.
One thing R.E.B.E.L.S. and Doom Patrol have in common, and one thing that makes them stand out from almost every other team book DC’s produced in the last few years, is consistency. In both books, the characters, the dialogue, and the plotting were the same from the first issue to the last, maintaining a level of quality that other titles (the aforementioned JLA, Teen Titans, and Outsiders come to mind) couldn’t even dream of holding a candle to.
So of course both titles got cancelled. Duh. DC wouldn’t just let this sort of thing slide.