I’ve been eager to read Justice League Odyssey since DC announced it. I didn’t want to wait three months before its release, and I especially didn’t want to wait the additional two months that were tacked on so the creative team could retool their story. But considering how strong Justice League and Justice League Dark are, I was willing to accept the two-month delay. By all means, take the time you need to work and craft the story that you need to tell, especially if you’re going to make an excellent final product! Well… Now that I’ve read the issue, I can’t help but think that they probably should’ve taken another two months to polish up this disaster.
I honestly have no idea where to begin my critique because hardly anything of value happens in this issue, and even when it does, it’s technically a spoiler… So, I’m just going to start with this: I don’t think Joshua Williamson is a good writer. That’s not a personal attack, just a statement. He has good ideas, but his instincts are poor and his execution is even worse. It’s the very reason(s) I stopped reading The Flash and why I wasn’t a fan of Justice League vs Suicide Squad. So, if you’ve shared this sentiment about Williamson’s work before, then you should expect more of the same here.
The title kicks off by showing us random alien planets and beings that were freed following the events of Justice League: No Justice. One of these aliens is a former Green Lantern, and now that she’s free, she’s embarking on a mission to inform the Guardians of prophecies found on these planets that ultimately resulted in them being imprisoned… The problem is, she never makes it to the Guardians.
Right away, we have a set-up that appears as though it’s going to establish the reason for this team’s formation (aka: the reason for this book) but that notion turns out to be a bust and ultimately a waste of pages. Williamson then reintroduces us to Jessica Cruz – one of Earth’s Green Lanterns – who is on patrol in the Ghost Sector. There’s some nonsense where Simon calls her to catch up, she complains about being bored, whines about having to do the job she requested, and so on. None of it is needed. It’s just more wasted pages. Then, suddenly, Brainiac’s ship jumps into the atmosphere. Aha! Something interesting!
We learn Cyborg is manning Brainiac’s ship with Starfire. How did they get the ship? I don’t know. Why did they take the ship? I also don’t know. What are they doing in space? Yeah, dude, seriously… I don’t know. Williamson doesn’t establish any of this. He just throws readers into the middle of a narrative without any context.
After a few pages of back and forth between Cyborg and Starfire pertaining to the numerous catastrophes they survived, the dangers of their current mission, and how this mission (which we still know nothing about) is really their own torch to carry, we finally learn what they are doing in space with Brainiac’s ship!… Oh, wait. No, we don’t. Never mind. We just learn that Azrael stowed away on Brainiac’s ship because a voice in his head told him to… I’m not joking.
On top of all of this, Jessica Cruz thinks that this is actually Brainiac despite the fact that she saw Brainiac die, and is coming in hot to attack the ship. But wait!!! Cruz’s attack fails because her constructs can’t withstand the maelstrom, so, it’s up to one of our heroes on the ship to save her. By this point, there have been roughly eight different life-threatening catastrophes referenced within ten pages or so. It’s an obnoxiously lazy attempt to create intrigue since Williamson couldn’t bother to take the time to properly set up his story.
After some introductions with our heroes and a few more life-threatening events that carry no weight or suspense, Williamson feeds us some convoluted, overly-complicated concept that establishes why Cyborg, Starfire, and Azrael are in the depths of space… Unfortunately, it fails to explain what it is they are actually doing – or hoping to do for that matter. Just that they’ve all felt a “calling” of sorts… *Sigh*
Twenty pages in, and I still can’t tell you what in the hell is going on. We don’t know why our heroes are in space, or what the relevance of this book is. Gripping. Then Darkseid randomly shows up! Thank God! Let him wipe these amateurs out with his omega beams so we can move on! (Kidding… Kind of…). But in all seriousness, when Darkseid shows up, things finally get interesting and Williamson manages to capture my attention for an entire two pages. I guess it was bound to happen at some point, right?
I know this is all a very generic commentary on the events of the book, but you have to realize that four-fifths of the book itself is generic, and the few talking points worth mentioning are spoilers. I’d rather let you experience it by reading the book if you choose to do so. I do have a more in-depth analysis and commentary in the spoiler tag, so look there for a more constructive critique of the book.
By the end of the issue, we learn that the “calling” that Cyborg, Starfire, and Azrael are feeling/hearing, is actually Darkseid himself summoning our heroes. The prophecies of the various planets referenced in the opening scene are actually prophecies about Cyborg, Starfire, and Azrael… Kind of. The explanation itself, while interesting, doesn’t really hold water, and is a little too specific to be believable considering there’s no way these alien races know the identity of our heroes or their likeness.
There is a separate explanation where the prophecies merely refer to “a goddess, a machine, and an angel,” and it’s implied that Darkseid is the one who established that these “old gods” are Starfire, Cyborg, and Azrael. But again, even that doesn’t hold water when you actually think about it. For one, how is Darkseid an adult now? He was an infant in Metal – and unless I remember incorrectly, he was killed. Also, how would he have informed these planets of our heroes if these specific planets were imprisoned before Darkseid invaded Earth? And how in the hell does Darkseid know about Azrael if they’ve never met? Nothing adds up. Even Darkseid’s link to Kori and Azrael doesn’t support any logic… The one thing that did make sense that I really liked was Darkseid’s connection to Cyborg. This could definitely lead to some interesting stories in the future!
Ultimately, Justice League Odyssey suffers because it opts to “tell” rather than “show,” and even in doing that, it fails to do it well. This book could’ve been much better if Williamson had better instincts and execution. I would’ve liked for this issue to show Cyborg, Starfire, and Azrael coming together to embark on this mission for various reasons. Take the time to build a foundation and some suspense.
For example, Cyborg feels guilty for the way the heroes left the universe following the events of Justice League: No Justice. Great! Show him researching a plan to help these planets, and in doing so, show that he doesn’t have full control over his body. Treat it like a possession. Something or someone takes over his body from time to time to help him connect the dots. Later in the arc, you can reveal that it’s Darkseid controlling him, and establish what his intentions are for wanting Cyborg’s help.
As for Starfire, she wants to find her home planet now that it’s free. This is another great motivation that is believable. Show that she doesn’t feel her calling is on earth anymore, and that her heart lies in reuniting with her people. If she were to learn that Cyborg planned on going to the Ghost Sector to try and help those planets, then they could align under that commonality. As for Azrael, show what he’s been up to since we last saw him in Detective Comics. To bring him to the team, you could keep the general idea of guidance from a “higher power,” almost giving him a type of foresight allowing him to cross paths with Cyborg and Kori. Explain the need for Brainiac’s ship, specifically, and show the three journeying to space with Cyborg potentially being a future risk. Jessica and Darkseid could be worked into future issues. Almost anything would’ve been better than what we got, which is nothing more than twenty pages throw-away lines attempting to create some resemblance of a narrative.
I had high hopes for Justice League Odyssey, but it ended up being a total disappointment. Even with the intriguing conclusion, I can’t say that I’m excited about next month’s issue. I’m not certain what the creative team spent the past two months doing, but it doesn’t appear to have been a whole hell of a lot.
The Art: The best aspect of Justice League Odyssey is Stjepan Sejic’s art. I felt highly confident in the art coming into the issue, and while it is good, I’ve seen better from Sejic. In fact, his work here is kind of a “Monet.” I mean that in the urban dictionary sense, not that his art resembles the famous painter. When you look at the full page, the art looks quite ravishing! But if you read digitally and choose to use the guided view, then you’ll notice how sloppy his lines are once the panels are blown up. It’s not his best work – which again, makes no sense considering the additional time he had to work on this book.
I also questioned some of the colors he used here. I found it interesting that Sejic kept choosing to use background colors that were similar to the characters he was featuring in his panels. There are multiple shots of Cyborg where everything around him is gray. Then Kori has a number of panels where her background is a shade of orange, while she is also a shade of orange. Even the accent color of her armor is very similar to her skin tone. They’re all odd choices, and I expect more from Sejic.
- You’re a fan of space operas.
- Stjepan Sejic
- It’s a team of Cyborg, Starfire, Green Lantern, Azrael, and Darkseid… Why not?
Overall: Despite my excitement for Justice League Odyssey, the reality is quite disappointing. There are good ideas here, but the execution falls way short of the expectation – which is a shame considering the creative team was graced with an additional two months to take advantage of fine-tuning the script. I’m going to hope for improvement, but I’m not going to hold my breath.