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Comic Book / Lab Rats

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Lab Rats is an eight issue DC Comics series by John Byrne following a group of homeless and run away children who have been taken to "The Campus" where they are used in experiments by Robert Quinlan. When Quinlan isn't strapping them into one deadly contraption or another he's sending them to clean up and investigate the dangerous results of his other experiments.

As the Lab Rats start dying on page one of issue one be warned of unmarked spoilers ahead.


Tropes in this comic:

  • Ambiguous Disorder: Gia struggled with depression and possibly had suicidal tendencies maybe, but who knows what was really up with her since this is only explored through the discussions of her fellow Campus members after her death where she was very obviously not looking to kill herself.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Did Senator Warfield end the project and take down Quinlan or did the murderous jerk get away with it all and start over with a new group of lab rats?
  • Ambiguously Evil: Is Quinlan actually evil or does he really think he's helping protect the world?
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Dana, true name unknown, is physically a girl but doesn't appear to have much interest in choosing a gender identity. Maybe because they're busy trying to survive.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Is the campus really as old as Quinlan says? Was it actually created to protect the earth? Was Quinlan really one of the lab rats himself as a kid? Is "Wonderland" a real place or one of the "Game Space" simulations? Did they really travel in time or was that another "Game Space" simulation? Was Issac really a street kid or was he sent to infiltrate the campus? The first three are easy to dismiss since the source of the information is the known liar and manipulator Quinlan who had something to gain but there's nothing proving he was lying in these instances, and the last is left ambiguous by Issac's death.
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  • Ambiguously Trained: Quinlan seems to consider himself well trained but the only thing "known" about his past is stated in the middle of bunch of known lies.
  • Backup from Otherworld: Dana gets help from the ghosts/echos of the others in the last issue, who claim to the remnants of what the kids would have been if not for the time travel trip and profess to hold the memories of at least two timelines. As Dana had been hallucinating for two issues by this point it's unknown if there is any truth to this or if they're "regular" hallucinations or something brought on by the malfunctioning transponder implant and its connection to the other's transponder implants when they died.
  • Body Horror: None of the kids but Dana really go out quietly but Trilby goes out the most painfully, being torn apart and taken over by supposedly extraterrestrial technology that was actually created by Quinlan at The Campus.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Honestly all of the main cast, though Alex being burned to a crisp mid-sentance, Gia being torn apart and dying while being chewed on and then almost revived but dying on the table, and Trilby being overtaken by a machine that tears her apart and uses her like a puppet to kill her friends while she slowly dies stand out.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Poe is constantly yelling at Wu because he thinks Wu is going to get himself or the others killed with his habit of wandering into places he shouldn't be and investigating. In the end this does not get anyone killed and Wu is killed alongside Poe and Issac when they were suddenly attacked by a giant robot, that was created due to Trilby letting her curiosity get the better of her.
  • Dateless Grave: The headstones on the cover of the last issue only have the rat's code names. Most of them definitely did not receive a proper funeral or any kind of grave marker outside of this symbolic cover. Only Dana really had a chance at getting a properly marked grave.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: Trilby is still being used as the base of the robot attacking the Campus after her death.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: Poe is left holding Gia's twitching arm when she's torn from it and killed.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Dana talks to the ghost/echos of Trilby, Poe, Wu, Issac and herself during the final issue. It's unclear if they're just further hallucinations or not but they claim to be echos of a dead timeline tied to hers by their now deceased selves and they fade away, and she realizes she's dying herself when her own ghost starts fading too.
  • Death by Transceiver: The Lab Rats are all linked through their transponder implants and therefore have each other's deaths communicated through them unless there's some form of interference at the time.
  • Death of a Child: All over the place, though Trilby is very disturbed when they come across the charred remains of someone even younger than any of the Lab Rats due to the deceased's young age.
  • Disposable Vagrant: The Campus treats homeless children as a disposable resource and kills seven of them over the course of the series, with others they'd killed before mentioned.
  • Downer Beginning: Gia, a teenage girl who is obviously fighting to live, gets eaten by dinosaurs while her friends try and fail to save her within a simulation that causes the internal injuries to be reflected on her physical body on the first page of the series.
  • Downer Ending: All the kids are dead and whether or not Quinlan is going to actually get away with it and be able to murder a bunch more street kids is left ambivalent.
  • Dwindling Party: The lab rats start loosing members before the first issue and their group is slowly dwindled away until the last member dies of poisoning.
  • Dying as Yourself: Dana tries to let Trilby have this but Trilby dies in the machine before Dana can make any real attempt to free her.
  • Eaten Alive: Gia was eaten in a "Game Space" simulation and the observing scientist were able to determine she died while being chewed on in the simulation due to the way her nerve endings reacted as she died on the table she was strapped to.
  • Faux Adventure Story: There are adventures, it's just not clear which if any fully take place outside of the deadly simulator at the Campus and all of the sympathetic child protagonists are killed.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Trilby tries to fight off the mechanical possession but once it's torn its way through most of her body and wrapped itself around her there's nothing she can do but die.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: The final three boys are killed in quick succession by a flame throwing robot.
  • Five-Token Band: The lab rats who are around for the longest consist of Poe (African American male), Wu (Chinese American male), Issac (presumably white male), Dana (non-bianary), and Trilby (white female).
  • Final Girl: Dana, who is physically female but whose gender identity seems rather fluid, is the final lab rat left alive and it looks like she's going to survive confronting the thing Trilby turned into that killed the rest of the final lab rats. Unfortunately Dana is already dying at the time and learns of this later, and Dana doesn't take out the thing using Trilby's body as its base or Quinlan before succumbing.
  • The Hero Dies: Poe is the hero, being the Lab Rat the others look to for guidance and who tries to save the others and encourages them to help each other. He dies in the second to last issue.
  • Improvised Lockpick: Trilby picked up lock-picking skills while living in Metropolis' Suicide Slum and has to improvise to open safes and doors on occasion since Quinlan never gives the kids a clue about what they might need on their missions nor does he really let them stock up on gear.
  • Informal Eulogy: Most characters do not get even that much but Quinlan spouts some things about it being a tragedy when Dana dies, right before telling his secretary to help him line up more kids to put through sadistic pointless deaths since he's run out.
  • In the Back: Poe is shot and burned from behind by the sudden attack robot that turns out to actually be Trilby following her eventually fatal Unwilling Roboticisation.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Alex is in the middle of saying that whatever's over the wall he's climbing can't be worse than the things chasing them on the side they're on when he's abruptly burned to a crisp by a dragon.
  • Mad Scientist: Quinlan.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Dana's conversation with the other's ghosts after she'd already been hallucinating for a while is quite possibly just another hallucination.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The kids acknowledge that none of them know each other's real names, though Issac is the exception to the rule since Trilby went to meet him and try to warn him to run before getting his transponder implant and therefore learned his name before Quinlan had a chance to give him a new one.
  • Playful Hacker: Dana's hacker abilities help out the Lab Rats on several occasions and eventually it seems she was able to disable her transponder implant. It becomes clear the thing has not been disabled properly and is fatally malfunctioning in the final pages.
  • Posthumous Character: Kris is one of the many Lab Rats who died before the series started and the only one given a name or any background.
  • Say My Name: Trilby screams Alex's name when he dies and then starts muttering it brokenly on repeat until Poe forces her to look away from Alex's remains to try and run.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Quinlan thinks he can get away with approximately anything due to his mysterious financial resources. Up till the final pages of the series he's right.
  • Secret Project Refugee Family: The lab rats themselves try to be this but their attempts to leave the campus never really work out and they all end up killed by Quinlan's plots.
  • Smug Snake: Quinlan is quite proud of the fact that the rats have no choice but to come back to him and at times appears to actually think he's the good guy making sacrifices for the greater good and that everyone else is a disposable fool.
  • Sole Survivor: Dana look like she's going to make it out and lasts almost a whole issue past the others morning them all the while, but it's revealed she's dying anyway and she's dead before the issue is out.
  • Suicide Mission: Almost everything Quinlan sends the kids to do, even when he claims he's giving them a vacation. Notably Poe himself sends them on a suicide mission to destroy a bad future Quinlan created by going back in time and running into and blowing up the time machine that wreaked havoc across the universe when Quinlan decided to send them 50 years into the future despite the computer simulations indicating that would be a terrible decision.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Alex ends up burned to death while Trilby and Poe yell at him that going over the wall he's scaling is going to be dangerous and he himself acknowledges the wall looks like it's built to keep something powerful trapped behind it.
  • The Un-Reveal: The last issue seems like it's going to expose what's really going on with the Campus, but instead there's a possible explanation given that's sandwiched in between several obvious lies and that appears to have been made up to try and get a senator to let Quinlan get away with his murderous experiments and is very likely a lie itself. The backers of the project are not revealed, nor the names of any of the Lab Rats and no real explanation is given for the purpose of the "Game Space" machine either.
  • You Have No Chance to Survive: When the rats have to undo the Bad Future Quinlan eagerly created they understand there is no way for them to survive the process.
  • Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb: Quinlan targets teens for his abductions because he figures they're easily duped into doing his bidding even when they have questions about his true intent.