Justice League Odyssey #1 sends Cyborg, Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, Starfire, and Azrael into The Ghost Sector, a collection of worlds released from Colu during the events of Justice League: No Justice. If you’ve seen the cover art, you know the fifth member of this new team is none other than Apokolips’s Darkseid. Does this debut issue do a good job of answering the head-scratching brought on by the announcement of this intergalactic alliance?
Introducing a team and setting up the premise of a series isn’t easy, but writer Joshua Williamson pulls it off in style. Each team member of Justice League Odyssey is given time to shine with just enough backstory references to introduce new readers to the characters without bogging them down in exposition. The framing device used at the beginning and end of the issue conveys natural world-building, showing us what Williamson is bringing to this new Ghost Sector without having to make characters explain further than a brief recap of the Justice League’s actions at the Source Wall.
Williamson scripts the issue with a steady pace, letting the dialogue establish the dynamics of the new team while still making the issue feel action-packed and exciting. I love Jessica Cruz’s no-nonsense attitude and Azrael’s coolheaded politeness as he withholds information from the team either out of distrust or some darker motive. A part of me wishes Darkseid wasn’t on the cover, because it ruins the surprise of his introduction, but I was still excited by the build-up towards it even if I knew what was coming.
Stjepan Sejic’s artwork is peak sci-fi beauty. From technology cluttered with wires and otherworldly lights to vistas of the Ghost Sector where clusters of multicolored planets crowd each other with sparks of volcanic activity and wispy trails of clouds. Whether it’s splashy spreads or explosive panels bordered with glowing energy from Jessica Cruz’s ring, each page is packed to the brim with luscious detail brought to life in electric neons and gaseous pastels. A lot of the linework in the issue is played a bit loose, like little dashes of purple for grass or thick strokes of black to give rock formations texture and shadows. This looseness makes the intergalactic setting of Justice League Odyssey feel all the more alien and makes me excited to see what parts of the Ghost Sector the team will explore next.
Speaking of alien, the creature and character designs are a delight. The Odyssey team encounters some giant predators in space that are beautifully terrifying, like deep sea creatures injected with pulpy sci-fi grandeur. More intelligent lifeforms have distinct body shapes and fashion that make me yearn for a Mass Effect-like codex where I can read about their histories and cultures, deepening my excitement to see the team encounter the Ghost Sector’s inhabitants and see how they react to the Earthlings and Tamaranean…and Apokoliptian.
Sejic’s character renderings are highly detailed on every panel with expressive faces and costumes which–aside from Cyborg’s body–have just enough detail to look complex without feeling overdone or busy. Not to say Cyborg looks absurd with all the lines used to render his technologically advanced body, he just inherently requires a lot more detail. When introducing each character, letterer Deron Bennett lets their names explode out of the word balloons in their trademark logos and his sound effects match the action and coloration of the pages in a way that feels dynamic and fun.
Overall, Justice League Odyssey brings together an interesting, unexpected cast of characters in a way that feels natural. I also want to applaud Williamson for giving us some explanation for Darkseid’s inclusion in this issue rather than decompressing the exposition out into the next issue with a clichéd cliffhanger that makes me actually excited to see what comes next rather than annoyed that something is being withheld to get me to buy the next issue just to know the basics of what’s going on.