This review contains spoilers for Justice League Odyssey #8.
Ethereal, red lightning rips through the atmosphere as Darkseid’s Other Box casts horrific images of Armageddon onto Aeolon’s nighttime sky. Visions of the New God’s “big picture” wash over the heroes, blinding them to a threat rapidly descending upon them from orbit. Thousands of Tamaranean soldiers and warriors of Azrael encircle our heroes with vulture-like voracity. Will Cyborg, Starfire, and Azrael embrace their rewritten destinies to save the multiverse or will the enemies of Darkseid prevent Sepulkore?
“You… rewrote our destinies?”
Picking up immediately from last issue’s cliffhanger, Justice League Odyssey #8 follows Cyborg, Starfire, Green Lantern, and Azrael as they must make an impossible choice: trust Darkseid or risk universal Armageddon. As Blackfire’s Tamaranean forces and the Order of Azrael approach to deliver the killing stroke, an already impossible choice is made that much more difficult. With Justice League Odyssey #8, Dan Abnett has crafted an enjoyable issue that strikes an excellent balance between answering longstanding questions and asking new ones. This is essential in keeping the reader engaged without feeling frustrated.
One of the largest mysteries within the pages of Justice League Odyssey has surrounded the notion that Cyborg, Starfire and Azrael have been worshipped for eons as Old Gods within the Ghost Sector. Although it has been clear since earlier issues that Darkseid was the architect of this change, it was never clear as to how their destinies were rewritten. The simplicity in Abnett’s answer is rather ingenious. Darkseid used the Other Box to reach back through hypertime to establish their myths across the worlds of the Ghost Sector. Now, if you ponder the big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff for too long, this answer may not make sense as Darkseid was not in possession of the Other Box until issue four. However, as with all stories involving time travel, it may be best to ignore all of the possible paradoxes unless you have a penchant for immediate cranial detonation.
Additionally, Abnett provides some surface level explanation as to why Darkseid chose these three characters as unknowing accomplices to his master scheme. Cyborg will be Darkseid’s technological transmuter. Starfire is Darkseid’s fire of creation. Azrael will be the voice that binds everyone together. Fortunately, the villain’s explanations are interrupted to save some of the mystery for future issues.
“Have faith and speak your truth.”
Although we ultimately do not know how each of their roles will truly play out over the course of Justice League Odyssey, as they have yet to be enabled by the Other Box, we do get a glimpse at Azrael’s newfound powers. The moment that these powers manifest is truly one of my favorite sequences within the entire book. Surrounded by an army of Blackfire’s soldiers and the Order of Azrael’s agents, Azrael, Starfire and Jessica Cruz are on the losing end of this battle. All seems lost until a voice begins to speak in Azrael’s mind. It commands him to, “Have faith and speak your truth.” It is in this moment that Azrael begins to command the members of each army to stop. Now, while it would have been awesome to see our heroes slaughter the opposition and bathe in the blood of their enemies, it would not have felt true to their nature. It was just as great to see Azrael end the conflict using just his words before amassing a fraction of the casualties. Additionally, this gives Azrael an opportunity to steal the spotlight and justify his inclusion on this team.
Abnett also gives the reader some justification as to why Darkseid would want to save the multiverse. In a conversation with our heroes, Darkseid reveals, “Because without life, I am nothing. My power is meaningless without anything upon which to exert it.” Certainly his motivations for saving the multiverse are not altruistic, but he may be our heroes’ only hope in saving everything they love. It will be interesting to see how this uneasy alliance plays out over the course of the story.
From a narrative standpoint, the return of Abnett’s narration is welcome here. As with Dan Abnett’s first issue, the narrative boxes give the reader a sense that this grandiose story is being read to them. However, Abnett finds their perfect use here. The narrative boxes are not entirely absent, as with the last issue, but also don’t overwhelm each sequence as with issue #6. Rather, they are used in issue #8 when grander narrative ideas are presented to the reader. This helps set Abnett’s story apart as he sets up the future of the title.
“This foolishness is unproductive.”
One of my largest complaints with the series up to this point has been that it feels like a lot of things are going on throughout the narrative without ever progressing the plot forward. Thankfully, Dan Abnett has begun to rectify this problem through providing answers to the series’ longstanding questions. Additionally, he begins to stoke the fires of intrigue by establishing a few new questions to be answered. One particularly interesting question revolves around the identity of the woman in the Other Boxes’ visions and how she will impact the mission moving forward. The end result is that Justice League Odyssey #8 continues to feel like setup to a larger story. Thankfully, these feelings are somewhat alleviated as Abnett answers some of our questions.
Although this title oftentimes feels like a revolving door for artists, Daniel Sampere’s pencils do a great job telling all of the narrative beats. From the team’s conversations with Darkseid to the battle against Blackfire’s troops, Sampere’s pencils are wonderful. Additionally, Juan Albarran’s inks with Ivan Plascencia’s colors do a great job in maintaining a visual tone established in previous issues. One of my favorite pages depicts Darkseid’s new planet, Sepulkore, as a massive D-20. Are the creators trying to tell us that trusting Darkseid with the fate of all living things is just a roll of the dice? Let’s just hope our heroes roll a natural twenty on all of their ability checks.
With Justice League Odyssey #8, Dan Abnett has truly found his footing. Dan Abnett has crafted an enjoyable issue that strikes an excellent balance between answering longstanding questions and asking new ones. Now that all of the setup is finally out of the way, and our heroes’ roles have been defined, I am truly excited to see where the story is heading.