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‘Justice League Odyssey #1’ (review)

Written by Joshua Williamson
Illustrated by Stjepan Sejic 
Published by DC Comics

 

“Someone wanted the knowledge of these worlds hidden, because of the old gods they worshiped. For thousands of years, the souls here have prayed for them to return… and now they have.”

 

Imagine for a moment that you’ve made great sacrifices in the cause for justice.

That fighting the good fight has come at a terrible cost: your family, your home, any semblance of a normal life, even parts of your own humanity.

You are a hero, so you shoulder the burden nonetheless, but the scars are there for all to see, and they haunt you even to this day.

What would you do then, if you were suddenly elevated far beyond your wildest dreams, given power and status to fulfilled all your dreams and longings by those who would treat you as a veritable god made flesh? Enough power perhaps to fill the void, and the years of loneliness, pain and hardship, you’ve endured. A place in the universe. Meaning. Purpose. Maybe even a sense of destiny.

How would that feel? Would it change you? Entice you? Tempt you, perhaps, to embrace a life of exaltation the likes of which you have never known?

Now imagine the devil himself has made you this offer. A being who traffics in godhood like a painter mixes oil colors.

Welcome to Wonderland.

I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly from Justice League Odyssey, but it certainly wasn’t anything along these lines. Even when it was announced that Darkseid himself would be joining Cyborg, Starfire, Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, and Azrael (of all people) on the team, something of that scale never even crossed my mind.

But maybe it should have. After all, the premise of this series is so outlandish, it’s hard really to wrap your brain around it in the first place.

A super space-opera kaleidoscope of possibility, unfolding from the vast chaotic zone of thousands upon thousands of imprisoned worlds, suddenly freed and un-shrunken into an unsuspecting universe, all at once, and all on top of one another, in the afterbirth of the great science-planet Colu’s destruction… I mean, yeesh, just saying that aloud makes the head spin.

Imagine what that looks like up close and personal. Hard to do.

Writer Joshua Williamson and all-in-one artistic talent Stjepan Sejic do their very best to do just that however, with the story of a handful of heroes who make a mad headlong plunge into the outlawed Ghost Sector of liberated worlds, on a crusade of some unexplained, mysterious, life-or-death desperation.

And into the waiting arms of the reborn God of Evil.

The set-up is about as super-science comic book free-form as you can get. This is literally uncharted territory – hundreds, maybe millions, of parsecs of it – and from what we can tell this issue, there’s every reason to believe that the maelstrom of the re-emergence of a galaxy of inhabited worlds has resulted in a landscape where not only the normal laws of physics, but perhaps the laws of spirit, and the laws of creation too, may be up for grabs.

A canvass of infinite possibility is just Joshua Williamson’s style. To be given an environment where rules and logic, and the pesky requirements of likelihood or moderation, are quite superfluous, must be like being a kid in a candy shop for him. And if the startling conclusion of this issue is any indication, it looks like he plans to take full advantage of all that carte blanche at his disposal. I mean, why think small?

That could go in any which direction. You’ll maybe have an inkling of where it’s all headed by the end of the issue, but at this point I have no real idea of what the end result will be. So, I’ll suspend judgment on what I think of that so far.

But I gotta hope he lives up to the potential, because it appears to be – quite literally – enormous.

As for Sejic, well, we’ll see. There’s no question the man has talent, but I’m a little surprised he was tapped for this particular gig. The size of the project is so fantastic in scale, I think it would be daunting for any artist. But so much of what Sejic showcases seems to struggle with the epic cinematic nature of the story.

I’ve got no problem with his handling of the characters. They’re colorful, expressive, creatively rendered – as much as anything, in fact, they seem to capture the style of high fantasy science fiction this project seems to be aspiring to. But the rest of the details, the deep space scenic backdrops, the alien spaceships and races, all the special effects – it’s all a jumble of muted colors, juxtaposing style and form, and shoddy inking that seem more in keeping with maybe the astral plane than something you’d expect from grand space opera.

Maybe that’s the point, maybe this isn’t really meant to be a showcase of crystal clear and bright primary colors jumping out from the vacuum of unfathomable space, but it’s disappointing, and I guess it’s probably not likely to change. And I have to say I count that as a mistake. For a project on this scale, with so much wild, grand, and wondrous to play with, muddled psychedelic isn’t quite the look I’d go for myself.

To be fair though, it does capture a certain Heavy Metal painted fantasy feel. And maybe that is more appropriate after all. Like I say, this book has already gone way off in directions I’d never imagined. Maybe it’s best just to sit back and watch what happens next.

Where’d I put that popcorn?

 

Next Issue: Mythology 101

 

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