Review: Justice League Odyssey Vol. 4: Last Stand trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thinking about summing up Justice League Odyssey, I came around to the idea that this was a book better than it ever really got credit for, especially after writer Dan Abnett came on. Its out of the way setting was both a boon and a detriment; the remoteness seems essential for the story Abnett was telling (not unlike his original Legion Lost), but the lack of tie to the larger DC Universe is probably what cost it in the end.

Reading Justice League Odyssey Vol. 4: Last Stand, I’m hard-pressed to find much of a sour note — good sci-fi, good characterization. The difficulty is simply that the stakes don’t feel so high (even as all of reality is threatened); after four volumes one knows by now this is the third wheel of the “New Justice” Justice League set, in service to the rest of the DCU and never setting the pace of it.

[Review contains spoilers]

At the core of Last Stand is a complex-enough time travel plot that reminds that, for all the superhero work Abnett’s done lately on Aquaman and Titans, what likely brought him to most DC readers' attention was his sci-fi work on Legion of Super-Heroes. I applaud the book for its alternate conflicting timelines and its strike force of time-displaced dopplegangers, not to mention that Abnett’s Odyssey is the “Jessica Cruz in charge” book that Green Lanterns never was.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

The heart of Last Stand is probably Jessica Cruz’s fourth-chapter jaunt into the past, where in the end Space Ranger Suzi Starr gives her life to send Jessica back to the present. We don’t know these characters all that well — in the midst of what’s been near constant attacks by Darkseid since Abnett took over this book, there’s yet to have been time for “day in the life” tales — and so why the character we know as Gamma Knife is called Suzi Starr or what their connection is wasn’t immediately clear.

But Starr sacrifices herself essentially on Jessica’s say-so, and then Gamma does the same again later on. I found it all rather moving, and especially given that Starr/Knife is a new character that Abnett just introduced and yet has managed to make meaningful within the brief confines of this title.

Again, this is Odyssey’s blessing and curse. For constant readers, Abnett has done a good job here — made Gamma Knife so likable that we mourn her death, created the wholly unlikely buddy duo of Green Lantern Jessica Cruz and Titans frenemy Blackfire, and so on. But in terms of greater marketability, Abnett declines to try for anything flashy — Jessica is shunted into the past during “Emerald Twilight,” and Abnett has her ponder looking up then-rookie Latern Kyle Rayner, a twist that surely would have garnered some eyeballs but that Abnett doesn’t pursue.

Last Stand does have one tie to the larger DC Universe: Even the back cover of this book spoils that it connects with Cyborg and Starfire’s appearance in Dark Nights: Death Metal. Mind you, that is tie is literally the equivalent of one page and one panel, an example of the hype machine in full force with Death Metal on the rise. Still, I rather hope the Odyssey adventures aren’t totally forgotten, as they very well might be (that Jessica does not have a new regular title is a sign the events of Odyssey may not get much recognition). Further, when Cyborg and Starfire pop out the other side into Justice League, I hope too that former Odyssey writer Joshua Williamson references where they’ve been, and that at some point their journey from Odyssey to Justice League to the new Teen Titans Academy book is explicated (since we’ve already seen them with the Titans over in the contemporaneous Teen Titans title).



Art for Justice League Odyssey Vol. 4: Last Stand is by Cliff Richard and Will Conrad. Their similar styles are a good fit, and specifically Conrad here reminds of his work on Peter Milligan’s New 52 Stormwatch, a similar space-ships-and-laser-beams kind of series that was basically an Authority attempt under a different name. Dan Abnett’s Justice League Odyssey has only one Authority analogue I could discern, a pseudo-Engineer, but indeed I got a Stormwatch/Authority vibe at times. Abnett has written Authority before, and in all what I take is that DC needs for a “space life” series in their line; I don’t see Abnett writing anything post “Future State,” but I’d be pleased if he ventured out into this territory again.

[Includes original, variant, and unused covers]


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