Review: Justice League Odyssey Vol. 2: Death of the Dark trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Remarkably for a book as complex as Justice League Odyssey often is, Dan Abnett takes over for Joshua Williamson without any sense of having missed a step. In Justice League Odyssey Vol. 2: Death of the Dark, Abnett provides explanations for all the mysteries that Williamson set up in the first volume, and that seems no easy task (one wonders to what extent the writers collaborated in the handoff). It is not that Dark's storyline is particularly intricate, but said explanations include heavy doses of time travel and retroactive realities, and that seems a heavy lift for a writer arriving in medias res.

Perhaps because of the necessarily small cast and the closed-off surroundings of the Ghost Sector, Odyssey begins to feel uncomfortably claustrophobic; there are not the cameos nor variety of story found in the more dynamic Justice League and Justice League Dark. Further, where League and Dark have explored a wealth of storylines, Odyssey is still on its Darkseid plot after 12 issues and that seems unlikely to change at least for another volume. This is not by far a poor book, but compared to the other titles in its "family," Odyssey lags behind a bit.

[Review contains spoilers]

There's a nice sense of paranoia in Death of the Dark, in the Odyssey teammates variously suspecting Cyborg, Starfire, or Azrael to be under the thrall of Darkseid. In terms of unique attributes, that the Odyssey teammates (Odysseans?) seem to be slowly going mad — or at least that Cyborg, Starfire, and Azrael are somewhat outsized or increasingly erratic versions of themselves — distinguishes this story from a more standard heroes-versus-villains tale.

That the heroes are "roguish" is also notable; not that they're anti-heroes outright, but much of the plot revolves around the heroes helping Darkseid while actively planning to betray him. There's something "anti-heroic" about that that's interesting. This "who can we trust, who can we not" push and pull often comes off frenetic and also repetitive, which contributes to Dark seeming a little lesser, but the root concepts are good.

Indeed, Dark offers a large amount of the heroes standing around talking. This ordinarily would be something I'd favor, but Death of the Dark is not particularly written for the trade. Especially when it gets down to finally betraying Darkseid, Abnett is perhaps over-concerned that the audience will follow the plot, with the characters rehashing schemes that they only talked about, trade-wise, a few pages before.

What's ultimately revealed is that Cyborg, Starfire, and Azrael have god-like status in the Ghost Sector, which they've never visited before, because Darkseid went back in time or otherwise affected Hypertime to make it so. This unfolds particularly well toward the end with Darkseid's sudden revelation of why he included Starfire — to light the flames of a new Apokolips. This kind of talk of realigning reality reminds strongly of Grant Morrison's Final Crisis take on Darkseid — the Odyssey team's "New Gods" are a kind of bullet shot backward in time, so to speak — and it demonstrates Abnett understanding Darkseid on a pretty high level.

Ultimately what drags down Dark is that there's not a lot that happens that's unpredictable, nor much in the way of subplots or the like. There's some big "space" battles, but they're mostly fought against humanoid opponents on the ground level — that is, there's more of an action vibe here than sci-fi, and one is unlikely to get their Star Wars or Star Trek fix from this book. The bad guys — Starfire's sister Blackfire, Azrael's accolade Rapture — are clearly bad until they're changed otherwise, and of course Darkseid double-crosses the heroes. The team is mostly all in the same place and fighting the same battles, such that we never particularly care about the characters on their own and none of them have their own storylines; it's an ensemble cast but not really an ensemble story.

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Any book that has the temerity to team-up such far flung characters as Green Lantern Jessica Cruz and Azrael deserves recognition. But Justice League Odyssey is just fine, not good or great, the first of the "New Justice" Justice League books that I'd cancel. With Justice League Odyssey Vol. 2: Death of the Dark, we ought be coming to the end what already seems a somewhat long storyline, but wait, there's more. That's also not great, and here's hoping Dan Abnett can turn this title around.

[Includes original and variant covers, sketchbook section]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League Odyssey Vol. 2: Death of the Dark
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. I honestly enjoyed this quite a bit. It's not clear if any of this is going to tie back in to whatever is going on with Metal 2 (Death Metal?), Perpetua, or JLD, but of the three JL titles, this one seems the least like it's setting up the next big event even while it's formally dealing with Metal/No Justice fallout quite closely.

    As a side note, this is maybe the first time in recorded history that someone at DC took a Grant Morrison concept, expanded upon it, and it wasn't entirely stupid or bland.


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