Justice League Odyssey gets off to a much stronger start than its troubled launch might have suggested with The Ghost Sector.
At the conclusion of No Justice, a collection of planets that had been miniaturized and hidden on the destroyed planet Colu were restored to normal size and pushed into a tight cluster, dubbed “The Ghost Sector.” Green Lantern Jessica Cruz guards the quarantined sector and follows when the heroes Cyborg, Starfire and Azrael go barreling through the radiation zone surrounding the sector. The trio had been lured from Earth by an irresistible impulse that leads the heroes to the reborn Darkseid. He insists he wants to save the endangered multiverse, but proves elusive. The heroes make a rather startling discovery about their connection to the Ghost Sector and get enmeshed in local planetary skirmishes. Darkseid manipulates them from the shadows as the heroes discover the secret reason these planets had been locked away.
The launch of Justice League Odyssey had been delayed by several months when editorial issues dictated that the creative team scrap a significant amount of already-completed material and start over. That could give potential readers pause, but with The Ghost Sector, writer Joshua Williamson makes the most of an oddball “Justice League in Space” concept to produce an appealing first arc. The book benefits from the friction of its random cast, a non-intuitive mix that winds up working better than it has any right to. This series provides a more natural leadership role for Cyborg and, in a nod to pre-New 52 history, acknowledges his long-time friendship with Starfire, who’s matured into a warrior in touch with her compassion. Out-of-his-element Azrael provides an agreeable X-factor, while Jessica Cruz has developed in a solid, steadying rock for this misfit non-team. Williamson devises a clever connection to the Sector that jolts the heroes, while deploying Darkseid as an operatic manipulator whose shadow looms over the quartet of heroes, even as his motivations emerge only slowly. This is a nice example of taking an unlikely group of characters and mixing them in a way that makes them a compelling whole. With new concepts and threats in the mix, Williamson is doing enough to keep the proceedings worth watching, with some potentially significant impacts for other books.
One aspect of the delayed launch that has a significant impact is on the artists involved. Stjepan Sejic had been lined up for the entire first arc, but following the re-start was able to complete only two issues (providing his own inks and colors) before having to depart. And while this may not be peak Sejic, he’s always an interesting artist and sets the right visual tone for the book, getting the mix of horror-tinged sci-fi and space opera just right. His character work is expressive, even if the cast is prone to dramatic posing, and his design ideas are imaginative and mine Williamson’s plot for some fun visual riffs. Philippe Briones, working with colorist Jeremy Cox, plies a similar aesthetic on the next two issues, though not quite with the flair of Sejic. Carmine Di Giandomenico rounds out the arc, leaning more into the sci-fi aspects, which gives colorist Ivan Plascencia the opportunity to expand the issue’s palate beyond the darker, more muted colors of the earlier installments. The artwork is all interesting, but given the necessity of bringing in pinch hitters after Sejic’s departure, readers can’t help but wonder what the long-term look of the series will be.
Even with some bumps and a few questions about its visual direction, The Ghost Sector establishes Justice League Odyssey as an agreeably odd book whose development bears watching.