Overview: After the events of No Justice, Starfire, Azrael, and Cyborg each felt a call to the newly created “Ghost Sector” of space, now home to the many worlds previously imprisoned on Brainiac’s home planet of Colu. That voice turned out to be none other than Darkseid, who claims to request the help of these heroes to save the galaxy from destruction. In the age of New Justice whom do they trust?
Summary (spoilers ahead): Traveling through a galactic maelstrom in a ship which previously belonged to Brainiac, stolen from the Justice League’s collection, Azrael Cyborg and Starfire encounter Green Lantern Jessica Cruz who attempts to stop them from entering the Ghost Sector. But the infighting comes to a halt when all four reach their destination and are met by cosmic despot Darkseid.
Darkseid, last seen as a resurrected baby after a confrontation with the Justice League tries to convince the misfit band of heroes to skip over their initial reaction, to engage in an immediate giant brawl. But it’s difficult for these junior members of the Justice League not to go with what they know and with a sigh, Darkseid engages each of them, easily besting Azrael, overpowering Cruz’s green light constructs and then squaring up with Cyborg. Reminding Victor Stone that his power stems from the Mother Box technology that is originally his, Darkseid deftly out-maneuvers Cyborg and gains enough ground to exclaim that rather than tell the heroes what he wants them to see, he will show them.
Suddenly they are all stopped in their tracks as they look up to see a huge statue towering high above and then vanishing into a canyon beyond their view. At the bottom of the canyon lay scores of alien bodies, all seemingly killed while worshipping the statue, which appears for all the world to be a giant stone recreation of Starfire. In fact, this is what Darkseid has summoned them to witness, claiming that each of the heroes has been canonized by alien races within the Ghost Sector and that they all must come together in order to avoid a galactic scale calamity.
Initially, of course, Cyborg assumes Darkseid must have caused the massacre. But he informs the heroes that these people were killed before any of them entered the Ghost Sector.
With that, Darkseid disappears.
Climbing down into the chasm the heroes investigate the scene. Azrael, dismayed because he had hoped to leave such scenes of violence behind in Gotham, is eventually overcome with awe that an entire culture has worshipped Starfire as a goddess. Of course, his next thought is to wonder where his statue is.
Among the bodies, Starfire discovers a survivor who is able to give the heroes some back-story on how things transpired. Apparently, this culture has worshipped her and praised her teachings for thousands of years, waiting for the time she would return and grant their salvation. When a demon appeared (in the form of Brainiac) and wreaked havoc, they thought they had angered their goddess. Their planet was freed from a frozen limbo on the planet Colu but cast into the hellish planetary cluster now known as the Ghost Sector.
As he speaks (translation provided by Jessica’s green ring) he appears to falter and lose strength. It is apparent he has been badly injured but the heroes can do little for his condition. Instead, he asks only that Kori make contact with him so he can pass his knowledge to her before he passes on. Quietly she agrees and his language and amassed knowledge and teachings form a clear picture in her mind. Behind the statue lies a hidden artifact which will assist her in the coming crisis and, if he is to be believed, the coming war. The artifact is called the Multiverse Key and the alien claims that it has been hidden here since “before the Fourth World.”
Just then, several things happen at once. All of a sudden each of the heroes realizes in their hearts and minds that Darkseid was not deceiving them. Something has drawn them here and each of their destinies is now forever altered. At the same time, Jessica’s ring announces that “Planetary stability has been compromised” and the walls of the canyon begin to crumble. A massive quake, perhaps shaking the entire planet rocks the area.
But more importantly, Starfire begins to glow then cries out to her fellow heroes to keep back. Her communion with the alien seems to have done more than just fill her with knowledge; it seems to have filled her with energy. Too much energy that is now beyond her control. At any moment, she is going to burst.
Analysis: First off, if you haven’t read No Justice yet, stop what you’re doing and go finish the four-issue miniseries. The story functions as a primer for each of the current JL ongoing titles but it is particularly of interest in preparation for reading this one. Having said that and assuming you’re properly equipped, let’s take a road trip.
Odyssey is biting off some rather large portions considering its jaw diameter. This fact is the single most exciting reason to read this book because it does, in fact, feel like the stakes are pretty high. There are a million reasons why this is important but for readers who tend to traverse the roads of Greater Gotham, it should at the very least come as a pleasant distraction from the quagmire of darkness and despair engulfing the Dark Knight and his allies. And to be honest “distraction” IS the very last adjective I think you could use in this case because Odyssey so far is promising an intriguing journey.
While the story has many elements of a Justice League/flagship yarn, appearing somewhat grandiose and literally taking place on a cosmic scale featuring high-powered cosmic beings, at the heart of this book is a “Road Trip/Buddy Cop” mentality that while still a bit amorphous looks like it will ultimately steer the main beats of this arc. Throwing a character like Azrael in the mix with Starfire and Cyborg serves to ground things in a way so the story doesn’t float off into uncharted space.
As stated if you aren’t at least familiar with some recent Justice League arcs, this book could be a little intimidating but there’s a reason they chose the characters they did. The Justice League along with Batman and other major DC universe players have done a serious job of mucking up the Multiverse and an important part of what Odyssey shows us is that just because you’ve always been in charge doesn’t mean you should continue to be. The Justice League fights against Darkseid. When confronted by him these heroes try to stick with the traditional course of action. But it’s clear that in order to solve this problem they will need to take a different tact because the old style of doing things is what got them here: The source wall cracked, the Multiverse in danger of collapse.
So there’s some really cool stuff to work with story-wise. That’s the good news. And there’s actually more good news.
The art is off-the-wall gorgeous. Stjepan Sejic is someone I’m not very familiar with but I’m instantly a fan. The stylish and vibrant color palette used to create the epic skies of the Ghost Sector and these unexplored regions of deep space is epic. The fighting between Darkseid and the heroes- which begins with a ZAP! of Omega beams- is well choreographed and breathtaking. The statue of Starfire creates a feeling of wonder as if you are really standing before an ancient shrine of an unknown culture. There’s not much more to ask for with the art.
If Joshua Williamson’s writing has a problem it is only that there is a tad too much of it. Some of the word bubbles seem too big and too frequent, the villain’s monologue is…well monotonous and because this book does require a bit of back-story it might be a little intimidating for the incoming reader. I would trade a bit of Darkseid’s fight (and constant prattle) for a quick recap of how they got here and maybe what actually made them decide to come (which even in issue #1 comes off a bit nebulous.) I have good feelings about where this story is going but it’s been a tiny bit rough around the edges figuring out where exactly how it starts.
Some of the tough moments though are quite honestly excusable because if you do in fact need to read any part of this book twice in order to understand what’s going on (and you might have to,) that should just serve as a perfect rationale to go back and gawk at the artwork which is just, if you’ll excuse the pun, out of this world.
Final Thoughts: Much has been made about a new direction for the League both creatively and within the story. If you have at all been disappointed in the last few months by the main team’s actions or even if you haven’t, Justice League Odyssey offers an entirely cosmic twist featuring characters that you know who aren’t often featured elsewhere. And once you’ve found your bearings there’s a lot to love about the epic size of this storyline and the art that lives up to such lofty aspirations. Time to pack your bags because as the name suggests, this corner of the Justice League is going for a ride. Whether or not it’s a bumpy one, it should definitely be memorable.