JUSTICE LEAGUE ODYSSEY #1 / Writer: Joshua Williamson / Artist: Stjepan Sejic / Letterer: Deron Bennett / Publisher: DC / Sep 26, 2018
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS
Justice League Odyssey is here for the fans. It is a hodge podge of DC’s wildest concepts working together as a sequel to Justice League: No Justice, itself packed with large-scale stakes and consequences on a cataclysmic sci-fi scale. A galaxy’s worth of hidden planets have expanded out of Colu (people who love shrinking stuff) into a “Ghost Sector” full of cosmic threats and mysteries. A team made up of DC’s heavy hitters (plus Azrael) charges headlong into the Ghost Sector pursuing a mysterious call for purpose among Colu’s unleashed worlds. Is there a reason these planets were hidden away? That’s a mystery for later in the arc, let’s talk team introductions!
Victor Stone/Cyborg, who was around for No Justice, feels guilty for how much the Justice League tampers with cosmic affairs without any follow-up. He calls out his own team:
“I’m a member of the Justice League. And we broke the damn universe. Every time we come out into space we make a mess and then we never clean it up.”
Kori’ander/Starfire hops aboard his hijacked Brainiac spaceship, with Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael as stowaway. Cyborg can pilot a Brainiac ship using his motherbox technology, which is part of his New 52 roots that ties him to DC’s New Gods, also called the Fourth World. Azrael can also pilot the ship thanks a high-tech Batsuit courtesy of Luke Fox/Batwing. The three of them barge into their other two teammates-to-be.
Jessica Cruz/Green Lantern volunteered to patrol the Ghost Sector when the Brainiac ship barrels through, along with a pack of giant space wraiths that breathe radiation so caustic that it disintegrates a Green Lantern’s shields. Starfire boosts the ship’s power via Cyborg’s body with a bolt of energy, and they all crash planetside with no idea where they really are. Darkseid reveals himself as the common thread that will give them all purpose in the Ghost Sector, as well as the fact that Starfire, Cyborg, and Azrael are all worshipped as ancient gods elsewhere in the Sector.
All of these developments are par for the course with Joshua Williamson. fame. Williamson has shown a knack in comics such as Flash (Rebirth) and Birthright for mixing fantastical concepts with personal relationships, and forging bonds between these five characters in uncharted cosmic DC waters will be quite a feat. But then, Stjepan Sejic’s art obliterates the senses. His people and runaway spaceships are equally beautiful, especially during the opening sequence that contains shades of Fiona Staples’s style from Saga (check out the horn-headed lady if you don’t believe me). Some of the larger panels beg script analysis to learn exactly how Williamson coaxed “giant space wraith chase” out of Sejic.
Let’s put aside a paragraph for appreciating the kind of mode Jessica Cruz is in for this book, because it’s the reason I paid for a print issue, and Williamson and Sejic did not disappoint. After overcoming so many personal hurdles, Cruz takes on a huge responsibility solo. Watching her let loose and call the shots with confidence and authority is such a treat. She is a fusion of kick-ass fury and panicked “Oh crap!” moments that is easy to cheer, and Sejic’s got the facial expressions to back them up. While I miss her former partner Simon Baz (what separated them is not specified), they do have a brief holo-call to keep up appearances. His inclusion also makes this a DC comic featuring a Mexican-American, an African-American, and a Lebanese-American (Azrael occupies a special “bat symbol on the cover” category). Speaking of representation, Jessica’s introduction to Starfire all but screams out for shipping.
Deron Bennett’s lettering captures the essence of the outer-space crashes and heroic shouts sprinkled throughout the issue. Sound effects pound and crackle their panels in reds and yellows, while dialog balloons take on colors suited to their speakers. Baz’s hologram speaks in green, of course, while Darkseid’s text is white on black, making his dialog a sinister presence on the page.
While this first issue is a joy to behold and a sci-fi adventurer’s dream, it is held back somewhat by its vague cause. Callings or not, everyone is in the Ghost Sector out of personal preference over any conclusive mission. (Was Jessica supposed to kill those wraiths or simply contain them? Is the Ghost Sector considered a large-scale wildlife and cultural preserve? Is this situation more like Mosaic or Cosmic Odyssey?) I can hold my breath for further exposition, but the fact remains that this is an issue of flashy entrances, and anyone not sold on the cast alone will be left wanting for something to sell the next issue to them. Personally, I was won over enough to want to go barreling along with the party.
Verdict: 4 out of 5.