This review contains spoilers.
Cyborg is gone, refashioned by Darkseid using the tools of Hypertime. Victor Stone is now the villain’s New God of Technology, a transmuter capable of changing something, or someone, into something else. With their leader gone, will the team still be able to pull off this cosmic coup? Or are Starfire and Azrael destined to suffer the same fate?
When the crew of Justice League Odyssey first made the plan to betray Darkseid, it was hard not to see the proposal as half-baked. When your enemy can disintegrate you with eye lasers that never miss, you’re going to need a fully formed stratagem. The team would need to find a way to overcome the New God’s strength and expert planning. Beyond this, one of the largest complaints that I had with this strategy was that it felt more like an evil scheme. Ultimately, it’s hard not to feel a sense of inevitability as the heroes lose when trying to play the villain’s game.
One of the greatest strengths of Justice League Odyssey #12 is witnessing Darkseid’s master plan come to fruition. Abnett makes the villain’s win interesting through the unexpected ways that each hero’s new abilities coalesce to serve his purpose. For several issues, Darkseid has referred to Cyborg as his transmuter. Until this issue, Darkseid never explains what this means. Abnett’s choice to show readers rather than tell them makes the truth much more horrifying. As our heroes begin to fall, Azrael commands his followers to attack the planet. Unfortunately, Cyborg is now capable of using Sepulkore’s hyper-network to transform the faithful warriors into Darkseid’s newest iteration of cannon-fodder: para-angels.
Additionally, Azrael’s transformation into Darkseid’s New God of Belief spells certain doom for the Ghost Sector’s inhabitants. Azrael will remove any unwilling participant’s free will with his commanding voice. Cyborg will then transform them into the mindless para-angels to follow Darkseid’s orders. It’s a devastating one-two punch that cleverly provides a payoff for everything that Abnett and Williamson have set up since the first issue.
Starfire’s role to play in this process is a little bit more literal than I would have expected. Described by Darkseid as “the spark,” Starfire literally serves as the match the villain uses to ignite Sepulkore’s engines. Her role is the least developed in the issue as she is tossed aside to return as Darkseid’s New God of Power. The lack of development is disappointing. However, it is understandable, as Abnett dedicates much of the story to both Cyborg and Azrael.
“I won’t let you do this.”
Darkseid’s narration takes over the entire issue, replacing Abnett’s storybook style narrative boxes. In doing so, Abnett provides Darkseid with adequate time to twirl his mustache in front of the heroes. It is always a little awkward when this style of boxes is missing from the book, as Abnett has used them throughout his arc to help the story feel epic. As a result, the storytelling lacks an overall consistency between issues. However, Darkseid’s organic narration serves Justice League Odyssey #12 better by allowing the reader a glimpse into the villain’s mind.
In further explaining his master plan, we are given a real sense of his less than altruistic motivations. Green Lantern Jessica Cruz says it best when she says, “This was only ever about restoring you to power and preserving your life.” Darkseid is certainly willing to save the citizens of the Ghost Sector, at the cost of their free will. Although they are saved, is a life without free will a life worth living?
Jessica Cruz finally gets her moment in this issue as she stands up to Darkseid. With her power ring failing, all that Jessica can rely on is her indomitable courage. As a result, Darkseid laments that he never made a place for her among his other New Gods. Upon Darkseid’s offer of a role with her former teammates, Jessica Cruz remains resolute in stopping the villain. Frustrated by her refusal, Darkseid disintegrates her with his Omega Beams. Cruz’s show of indomitable courage is refreshing here as she never betrays her convictions. I don’t think the hero will be gone for too long, as the villain’s Omega Effect allows him to recreate anyone he has killed. I have a feeling we will see her remade by the villain in a manner that better serves his purposes.
Will Conrad’s artwork with Rain Beredo’s colors is perfect for this series. The art team does an excellent job conveying the cosmic scale of this story as well as the villain’s immense power. One of my favorite pages from the entire issue involves the resurgence of Darkseid’s powers. The villain is filled with cosmic energy that makes his body look like a red and yellow x-ray. The coloring on this page is beautiful.
Additionally, the final scenes with Jessica Cruz do an excellent job conveying her courage and desperation, and she fights Darkseid with her dwindling power. The page where Jessica braces herself against the wall with one percent battery power is powerful. It does a perfect job conveying her willpower in the face of overwhelming odds.
With Justice League Odyssey #12, Abnett has given fans of the series their Empire Strikes Back moment. Our heroes have fallen to the darkness. The team’s voice of reason reduced to ashes. Will the team find a way to turn this failure into success? Or will new heroes arise to combat this darkness? I am excited to see how this plays out in future issues.