Since it was announced, DC Comics latest expansion of its core superteam has focused on one surprising fact: Darkseid Is... a member of the Justice League?
But September's Justice League Odyssey by Joshua Williamson and Stjepan Šejić is more than a showcase for the recently reborn evil lord of the New Gods. As the writer explained in a recent CBR interview at Comic-Con International, the space-faring team book will focus on an extremely unexpected cast, with perhaps its oddest member taking the most important role for the reader.
"People keep asking me about Azrael and saying, 'Why is he there?' Well, why is he there?" Williamson told CBR with a laugh. "I think he will play an important part of this, and people will be surprised. He's definitely the oddball. But for me, every team book needs the POV character who's being brought into this situation, and he's a character that's never been in space before. So he gets to be the POV for this story."
However, the writer was quick to note that every hero (and villain) on the squad has a part to play in introducing the new status quo of DC's cosmic corner. "It's funny, because every time I talk about this I say 'Jessica is the POV... no Cyborg is... no Starfire is. Because I really try to make sure each of them have an individual role and a voice in the book. But I think people will be surprised by the direction that Azrael goes."
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Overall, the goal for the Odyssey series is to explore corners of the DCU that are more dangerous now than they've ever been. But for Williamson, a primary creative focus is delivering an interesting twist on the Justice League franchise. "I always liked the side team," he said. "When I was younger, I liked Justice League, but I also liked Justice League Task Force. And Extreme Justice! I feel like I was the only person who liked Extreme Justice... there's nothing wrong with those jackets.
"I always liked that other side team that was a little bit on the oddball side, and that was the thing I wanted to do with this. We talked about doing a big, cosmic space book – doing something with the Source Wall falling and what that meant for the universe. What's going on with the Fourth World stuff while this is happening? What's going on with all the cosmic characters?"
As the book opens, the fallout from various recent DC event series will be front and center. "We put together this team that felt a little more ragtag, a little more Dirty Dozen, and we threw them off into space to see what happens. So we get to play around with a lot of the stuff that Scott [Snyder] has been developing – the stuff we did in Metal and the stuff we did in No Justice – and try and tell this really big cosmic story through the eyes of these characters."
Williamson noted the way the title owes a debt to a classic DC storyline, 1988's Cosmic Odyssey by by Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola. "If you go back and read that and then read No Justice, you can totally see the influence there. There was a lot of the same DNA. There was a planet blowing up in [the original], and we had Colu blowing up. The inspiration is very clear."
Justice League Odyssey arrives September 26 from DC Comics.