Review: Justice League Odyssey Vol. 3: Final Frontier trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Justice League Odyssey Volume 3 Final Frontier

Surprisingly, for what has long been the third wheel of the “New Justice” Justice League set, Dan Abnett’s Justice League Odyssey Vol. 3: Final Frontier is a fast-paced, frenetic space opera. Abnett accomplishes this by essentially jettisoning almost everything that came before, but he makes something particularly strong out of what remains. Though Abnett’s recent work has been the more terrestrial Aquaman, Odyssey hearkens back to his Legion of Super-Heroes days; moreover, artist Will Conrad’s presence evokes his work on the New 52 Stormwatch, which — despite its rough conclusion — itself started out as a cogent tale of aliens and spacecraft.

Like so many other DC titles, Odyssey is due to be cancelled after the next volume. More’s the pity (but isn’t it always the way) that this title finally found a voice for itself just before the end.

[Review contains spoilers]

In no uncertain terms Abnett clears the decks at the beginning of this volume. This is not Abnett’s first book of Odyssey — he wrote the entirety of Justice League Odyssey Vol. 2: Death of the Dark — but one could be forgiven for thinking it was; this is the first volume, at least, where Abnett seems to have loosed the characters, if not the plot, set up by the series' original writer Joshua Williamson. Notably the team is referred to more as the Justice League here than any time in the series so far even as they’re less “Justice League” than they’ve been — now made up of Starfire’s sister Blackfire, the feline Red Lantern Dex-Starr, the New God (and one-time alt-continuity Leaguer) Orion, and others, led by Green Lantern Jessica Cruz.

This is a motley crew of characters, but surely there’s some fan favorites in there, and Abnett brings these “rogues” together against common enemy Darkseid with little angst or melodrama. A large part of the story sees Blackfire, Dex-Starr, and their ship’s plucky “Technician” teamed to seek weapons against Darkseid (and running afoul of DC stalwart Epoch, Lord of Time), while Cruz, Orion, and new character Gamma Knife (daughter of Space Ranger, apparently) fight their way out of captivity. Abnett makes both the characters and the mini-teams exceptionally likable, and even succeeds where so many have failed with a newly powered-up and confident Jessica Cruz in the lead. (Who’d have ever thought of Jessica Cruz, created in 2013, and Blackfire, created in 1982, as friends, but it works, and Cruz continually calling Blackfire “your Maj” is priceless.)

In speaking of Abnett having cleared the decks, I should mention that’s so extensive as that former series stars Starfire and Azrael Jean Paul Valley almost don’t even appear in the book at all. I’d say that’s too bad, as I was glad Azrael was appearing in a book after James Tynion’s Detective Comics, but at the same time he’s been a problematic figure here under Williamson, et al., so maybe benching him’s not a bad idea.

Justice League Odyssey has seemed to me a failed experiment; to an extent it seemed like a venue for adult-Titan heroes (“second generation” or twenty-something, Nightwing-level heroes) to have adventures, Starfire and Cyborg along with Cruz and Azrael, but isolating them in space especially felt like taking them out now the action. Using already-space-dwelling oddball characters like Blackfire and Dex-Starr seems a better fit, believably “Justice League” without hamstringing other heavy hitters.

I believe Cyborg and Starfire, at least, are headed back to Earth with Death Metal; I don’t know about the rest of this team post-cancellation (or Azrael), but I’m happy to imagine Cruz, Blackfire, and Dex-Starr keep patrolling the Ghost Sector together, showing up at times in a Green Lantern Corps book or something. Abnett keeps Cyborg in the book, if in absentia, appearing in telepathic messages to Cruz and at times as the book’s Darkseid-controlled antagonist. This, again, Abnett handles really well, forming something of the emotional core of the book. Abnett too emphasizes Cyborg and Cruz' bond as fellow Justice League teammates, acknowledging but then skillfully moving past the characters' overwrought bickering from earlier in the series.

There’s an awful lot of spaceship-hopping here, exploding spaceships, and pitched laser battles in grimy spaceship hallways. It’s here where Conrad evokes his Stormwatch work, and the books have similar vibes of morally ambiguous characters fighting their way out of trouble. The Technician character even reminds a bit of Stormwatch’s (and Authority’s) Engineer, though I think it’s a stretch to imagine the full complement of analogues here. The other contributing aspect is that Abnett brings some great sci-fi in the end a la Stormwatch, with some twisty-turny time travel. Of all the Justice League books rapidly approaching the “Doom War” and Dark Nights: Death Metal, I actually think Abnett did the best here suggesting the makings of a “Crisis-level” event, even over Scott Snyder’s own Justice League.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Justice League Odyssey Vol. 3: Final Frontier



So, unlikely as I thought it might be, I found myself getting into Justice League Odyssey Vol. 3: Final Frontier, and that it garnered some excitement for me for the ending parts of “Year of the Villain,” too. As I’ve said here before, I guess it’s better that a mid-pile book should start getting good right before it ends than a book start skip-able and stay that way, but a shame we won’t see more of where Dan Abnett was going with all this. Surely this book is a workable demonstration of how a Justice League-in-space book could be done in the future.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 1 )

  1. This and Titans are interesting. DC sometimes doesn't seem like it knows what to do with adult titans and legacy characters. But this was fun.


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