This review contains spoilers for Justice League Odyssey #11.
With the team’s ten Apokoliptian relics in his possession, Darkseid now wields enough power to ignite the fire pits of his personal panic room, Sepulkore. The creation of this new world will ensure the Ghost Sector’s survival during the multiversal cataclysm. Unfortunately, it will also restore Darkseid’s full strength. Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data transmitted by the relics, even Cyborg is beginning to doubt the success of their plan to betray the villain. Will Team Odyssey find a way to overpower the New God and usurp control of Sepulkore, or is it their destiny to help the villain’s evil machinations?
“Darkseid is always a damn variable, Brainiac.”
Picking up immediately after the events of the previous issue, Justice League Odyssey #11 breathes new life into the series with this month’s tie-in to “Year of the Villain.” Much like our heroes trapped within the Ghost Sector’s maelstrom, Justice League Odyssey has always felt a bit isolated from the rest of DC’s titles. With this issue, Dan Abnett does an excellent job of not only showing the title’s connections to this year’s event, but also exploring a crucial component of Cyborg’s character.
Justice League Odyssey #11 opens with Lex Luthor and Brainiac debating the impact that Darkseid might have on Luthor’s scheme if left unchecked. After some reassurance that the New God will no longer be a factor due to Brainiac’s interference, Lex laments that he would have liked to make his offer to Darkseid, stating, “He could have been useful.” After several tie-in issues with Lex popping up at the story’s end to present his offer, this is a refreshing twist to the structure of these tie-ins.
Through Darkseid’s surveillance of these two villains, we can further comprehend the time constraints under which the New God has been operating. Although we have witnessed the scope of the cataclysm’s destruction, this sequence does an excellent job of giving the conflict a sense of urgency as we can see that Darkseid is working against Lex to complete his goal first. Ultimately, we get a sense that Luthor would have never truly made an offer to the villain as these two characters are competitors in this conflict. Although we have always understood the stakes of the multiversal collapse, this sequence does an excellent job in illustrating the threat our heroes and Darkseid face.
“Your whole life, since your accident, you have feared you were losing your human identity. That Victor Stone was vanishing into the machine.”
One of this issue’s greatest strengths is in Abnett’s exploration of Cyborg. Throughout each of the previous issues, we get a sense that Darkseid is manipulating Starfire and Azrael. Even if the heroes deny it, this change is inherently evident through the shift in their demeanor and enhanced abilities. Although Jessica Cruz often questions each of their loyalties to the team and the mission, Cyborg’s characterization never waivers. However, everything is about to change as the villain sets his sights on the technology-based Old God. This conflict is personal for Victor Stone, as his origin is directly tied to the villain through the implementation of one of his motherboxes.
In an effort to determine whether or not he could control Sepulkore after their mutiny, Cyborg meets with Darkseid during its ignition process. Throughout their meeting, the New God constantly pushes Vic to understand the data radiating from the relics. After Cyborg denies his ability to parse the data, Darkseid begins to manipulate the hero by preying on one of his greatest fears.
The villain states, “The fears that have haunted you your whole life were not those of a man afraid he was becoming a machine. They were the fears of a machine that was forced to pretend it was a human.” I find it hard not to draw comparisons between this and a similar quote found in Spider-Man’s “The Other” storyline. In it, a cosmic spider queries, “Are you the man who dreamed of being a spider? Or are you the spider who dreamed of being a man?” At their core, both quotes implore the characters to question their identity by positing that certain traits have been neglected. The questioning of one’s identity is a struggle that every person goes through at some point during their lives. Dan Abnett’s inclusion of this relevant theme does an excellent job of making this cosmic conflict more relatable to the reader. It will be interesting to see how this theme of identity will be explored in further issues as our heroes attempt to overcome Darkseid.
Unfortunately for Victor Stone, Darkseid’s plans are far more insidious than that of the cosmic spider. Through the exploitation of this fear, Darkseid instills doubt within the hero, thereby making him more susceptible to the villain’s suggestion. Cyborg’s transformation into an agent of Darkseid is shocking as he is the one character who never outwardly showed signs of manipulation. It wasn’t until his arrival on Sepulkore that Cyborg began to say “ping” more frequently as he processed information. The subversion of who we thought might betray the team is excellent because it leaves them engaged in conflict with their leader.
I do think that the Cyborg’s turn to the “Darkseid” would have benefited from seeds of mistrust being sewn throughout more of the previous books. The change in Cyborg’s behavior feels more sudden and less developed than that of Starfire or Azrael. However, it is important to note that Darkseid’s powers are magnified on Sepulkore, which is a decent justification for such a rapid change.
“We are facilitating a monster.”
Will Conrad’s artwork with Ivan Plascencia and Pete Pantazis’ colors do an excellent job conveying the cosmic nature of this story. One of my favorite panels throughout the entire book is a picture of Sepulkore. The amount of detail placed into this image makes the planet feel as though it would exist within our reality. Additionally, the art team does a great job illustrating the action sequences as the team makes its move on Darkseid. Some of my other favorite panels from the issue come during its final moments as Jessica Cruz crashes the Skull Ship into Darkseid.
Justice League Odyssey #11 is an excellent exploration of themes surrounding identity bolstered by Will Conrad’s artwork with Ivan Plascencia and Pete Pantazis’ colors. Dan Abnett does an excellent job of setting the stage for further exploration of this theme as Cyborg succumbs to the machine and joins Darkseid. It will be interesting to see if our heroes will be able to retain their sense of self after their conflict with the villain.