Circling around the rogue Justice League with righteous determination, the combined forces of the Blackfire’s Tamaranean warriors and Rapture’s zealot crusaders threaten to reduce our heroes to bloody pulps. Azrael summons every ounce of faith he has to address the bloodthirsty multitude in a desperate bid to prevent more bloodshed. With the utterance of his first syllable, peace begins to wash over the ten thousand warriors, soothing them like the gentle sound of an ocean breeze. Slowly, their weapons begin to lower as each warrior kneels before the former assassin until only one enemy remains: Blackfire. The Tamaranean Queen trembles from head to toe as she uses every last ounce of strength to combat this mental assault and falls to one knee.
“I don’t know why I bowed! H-His words seemed to make sense… but I had no choice!”
With great artwork and a focus on wonderfully crafted character interactions, it is clear that Justice League Odyssey is finally beginning to hit its stride. A great deal of the fun in reading a team book, especially those teams where members possess conflicting ideologies, is watching the drama unfold between the members. This drama is largely the focus of Justice Odyssey #9 as we witness the fallout from the discovery of Azrael’s new abilities.
Picking up immediately from the end of issue #8, Justice League Odyssey #9 twists one of my favorite moments from the previous issue into something truly horrifying. Azrael is able to halt the advances of the enemy soldiers simply with his words. In the review of the prior issue, I stated that it was awesome to see the hero stop the conflict by using his voice. Originally, I felt that this was more true to their heroic nature, as heroes would want to end the battle with minimal bloodshed.
However, Abnett’s twist on this newfound ability is much less heroic than I originally perceived and Justice League Odyssey is much better off for it. At the end of the battle, Blackfire reveals that Azrael’s voice took away her ability to choose as he commanded her to be calm. Instead of having the ability to use articulate words to convince his enemies to stop their attack, he is essentially taking away their free will and forcing them to do as he says. It is in these panels that Daniel Sampere’s pencils with Jan Albarran’s inks and Ivan Placencia’s colors truly sell the horrific impact of this moment.
As Blackfire weeps to her sister that she “had no choice,” you get a sense that Azrael’s new powers have violated an ethical code. Normally our heroes are seen beating their enemies into submission with their fists. Sampere’s pencils expertly convey the horror Blackfire is feeling after the loss of her free will. Witnessing her weeping to her sister is uncomfortable, as it should be. This doesn’t feel like a heroic victory and, to be honest, this is exactly what you can expect from powers that were given to you from villainous Darkseid’s Other Box.
Moreover, Azrael’s newfound faith in himself and power set, results in a change of dialogue that lands somewhere between a fear inducing “fire and brimstone” Sunday morning sermon and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Ebony Maw cultist speech. Although the words that Azrael uses seem positive as he preaches about peace, the cadence to his words add to the feeling that something isn’t right with the hero. He never reaches the cultist speech of the MCU’s villain, but you get the feeling that this wouldn’t be too far of a stretch.
Ultimately, this twist in Azrael’s powers makes his role with Darkseid’s master plan instantly more interesting. I am intrigued to see how this nefarious new power will take the character into darker territory as Azrael continues to work with his newfound teammates.
“I despise Darkseid. I do. But he chose us. And with all life on the line, can we afford not to work with him?”
Azrael isn’t the only character that receives an upgrade, as Cyborg merges with the next relic and is able to summon limited boom tubes that can take the team to each of the other relics. Upon his return, it is disconcerting just how much it feels as though these old gods have drank of Darkseid’s Kool-Aid. Similarly, their plan to betray Darkseid after obtaining all of the relics, as he has done in the past, does not strike me as a very heroic plan. There is something that is obviously off with each of these characters. Thankfully, Jessica Cruz largely serves as the reader’s voice as we witness these characters go down this dark path. The team is headed toward a clash of ideologies and I am excited to witness the fallout.
With excellent character work and artwork that allows the readers to empathize with the characters, Justice League Odyssey #9 is easily the best issue of the series thus far. As we witness the heroes gleefully going down the dark path to helping Darkseid, it is hard to wait to read the fallout of their actions. Will Jessica Cruz be able to talk some sense into her teammates or will she have to stop them with the last of her Green Lantern might?