This review contains spoilers for Justice League Odyssey #13.
The fires of Darkseid’s panic room, Sepulkore, have been ignited. An antibaryonic shield now rapidly engulfs the Ghost Sector, protecting the New God from the Source Wall’s collapse. With his formidable powers restored, the villain corrupts Cyborg, Starfire, and Azrael, transforming them into his twisted heralds. The team’s only hope for success, Jessica Cruz, has been reduced to ashes. Who will stand against Darkseid now that our heroes have fallen?
“A cause that must unite all living creatures before it’s too late.”
With Justice League Odyssey #13, Dan Abnett faces the unenviable task of introducing a new team of heroes. The result is an issue that feels like an episode of a television series where fan-favorite characters are written out and replaced with proxies. Although the shift in focus is never seamless, these replacements can quickly become new favorites when handled correctly. Abnett’s success with this issue lies in establishing compelling mysteries around the new characters without ever making them feel like replacements for the team we lost.
Following the events of the previous issue, Abnett takes us to the Science Academy of Zamaron Research Station 88Z. Here we find everyone’s favorite Red Lantern kitty, Dex-Starr, and two new characters, Okkult and Arla Hax attempting to use an ancient device known as the Summoner. They hope to track high levels of Omega energy and gather an army of New Gods to battle Darkseid. Unfortunately, the device mistakes the energy signatures of Blackfire, an inert Motherbox, and Jessica Cruz’s corpse for the army due to their recent encounters with the villain.
The swift return of Jessica Cruz is one of the most significant surprises of the entire issue. Following her untimely demise at the hands of Darkseid, we find that the Green Lantern’s body is repairing itself. Hax theorizes that this is due to Darkseid crushing her power ring into her skin before his deadly Omega Beams dealt the final blow. As a result, the ring absorbed the brunt of the Omega energy. This same energy is now using it to heal her body. However surprising the character’s return was, the reveal of her new powerset immediately took center stage in the book’s final moments. As an unheavenly host of para-angels swarms the station, Jessica unleashes a blast of Omega energy powerful enough to rid their base of these pests.
The mystery surrounding Okkult’s identity is intriguing because of its emphasis throughout the entire book. During the opening pages, Dex-Starr asks why he chooses to hide behind a mask. Okkult’s only response is, “My business is my business, Red Lantern.” The character’s choice to conceal his identity serves as a call back to Azrael’s suspicious desire to remain in his helmet during a prior issue. The parallel drawn between these characters is made more explicit when Jessica Cruz says, “Secrecy and manipulation took three good friends from me.” It will be interesting to discover this character’s identity. Even his name evokes Azrael and the religious order of St. Dumas. Okkult is a blatant manipulation of the word occult, which evokes the notion of going against traditional religion. Perhaps this code name is merely a hint that the character opposes the worship of Darkseid or maybe there is something more to this religious connection.
Arla Hax’s character seems to be the least developed in this issue. She is self-described as the technician running this station, who has been hired by Okkult to run the Summoner. However, her character instantly more interesting once Abnett reveals that she blocked Cruz’s transmission from reaching the Justice League and the Green Lanterns. I am intrigued by the character’s motivation, and this action makes me wonder if she too will turn to the Darkseid. Additionally, Dex-Starr’s inclusion on the team seems a bit superfluous with Jessica Cruz’s return.
“Old saying where I’m from – – What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
Will Conrad and Cliff Richards’ artwork with Rain Beredo’s colors is perfect. They do an excellent job of conveying the science fiction, and borderline horror, of this series. Sequences involving the para-angels are a perfect example of this tone. The horrific visage of Darkseid’s new cannon-fodder set against the twinkling stars does an excellent job of conveying the universe’s beauty and the horror that awaits our heroes. Notably, this sequence stands out because the art team’s work does an excellent job of conveying the sense of chaos from the villains’ assault.
Ultimately, Justice League Odyssey #13 feels like a new issue #1 for the series. Abnett does an excellent job of introducing this new team of heroes without ever making them feel like replacements. This success is due in large part to the mysteries surrounding two of the characters. Additionally, Annette does not treat this issue as Jessica Cruz recruiting a new team, but rather that this team has been operating tangentially to the other. Unfortunately, Hax’s and Dex-Starr’s inclusion on the team need some more development.