Published on November 28th, 2014 | by Dapper Dan0
ODY-C 1 – Comic Review
ODY-C – The strangest trip of all is the one home…
OK, bear with me, as this review starts with a bit of background on yours truly.
At school I had a major interest in Greco-Roman mythology (And Norse too, for that matter). Clash Of The Titans, Jason & The Argonauts and the like, were shown on TV every Easter and Christmas. I read all about Aeneas, survivor of sacked Troy, and Odysseus, victorious and lost general of the same war. Ulysses 31 was the cartoon I *had* to watch after school on BBC1 (Although even at that age I did wonder why the lead singer from the Bee Gees was in space…) and all was right in the world. These tales were timeless, featuring heroes, villains, anti-heroes, sympathetic villains and more capricious gods and goddesses than you could shake a stick at. All of humanity is there in those stories, good, bad and in-between.
Fast forward a good few years to my first week at university studying English Literature. Not only was I reeling from the news that I’d be reading 4 books a week minimum, but among the first ones would be Homer’s Iliad and its’ sequel The Odyssey. If you’ve never read them, let me illuminate you; they are hard work. Scratch that, they are VERY hard work. So, my affinity for the Greco-Roman pantheon’s hijinks was muted and laid low. Not killed outright, but merely… sleeping.
This week saw the release of the latest book from Matt Fraction, writer of the Eisner award-winning Hawkeye and Sex Criminals, to name but two of his oeuvres. This time out Fraction is working with British artist Christian Ward, who you should remember from the trippy-as-balls Infinite Vacation with Nick Spencer. ODY-C is a sci-fi, gender-flipped re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey and is an incredibly layered book. Just as Homer’s epic detailed Odysseus’ journey home, fraught with peril, so too will ODY-C tell the tale of Odyssia and her decade-long attempts to return home to her home planet of Ithicaa. Suddenly my dormant affinity for the legends is awakened, and reignited.
ODY-C wants to make you gaze at it wide-eyed. It dares you not to be a-gog at the scale of the story, the art that defies all regular convention for comic books. Panel structure? Pah! This tale will not follow your 9-panel grids, this tale is beyond space and time and the layouts echo this. I’ve struggled to find panels to use in this article, because whatever way you try and isolate them, they are intrinsically linked to those before and after. The action flows fluidly, like mercury; there’s one sequence that particularly stands out; a boarding action between Odyssia’s ship and a raider’s. Viewed from the side, it seems a perfect homage to Oldboy and the iconic corridor fight scene. Steeped in red, the colouring effect conjures viscera and also ship-wide alarms. The urgency and drama is communicated perfectly by Christian Ward’s vivid psychadelic style.
Starting with an EIGHT PAGE fold-out, showing the end of Troiia, backed by a timeline of the setting along with a galactic map, it shows that Fraction has spent a long time world building for this series.
ODY-C comes at you at full speed from the on in. Helen of Troy is transposed from the most beautiful woman in the world, to a defeated space-gimp, his face branded with the name of his vanquisher, his leash held by the three victorious generals. Then, as per the original tale, the victors start their long journey home, towards family not seen in a decade. It goes without saying that the journey becomes a little more complicated than following the sat-nav.
The pantheon have their genders flipped in the same way as the mortals. The splash page of this universe’s Olympus shows us many of the gods, yet names few. Zeus is a rubenesque goddess who allows Poseidon to cast Odyssia off course for little reason beyond personal spite. I particularly like the visual cue of Poseidon now appearing to be fluid space, rather than water. It makes perfect sense; in this setting the mortals sail through the black, so why shouldn’t the Goddess of the Oceans represent that? Hermes looks like a speed skater atop the Silver Surfer’s board, Athena is now a bearded sage with a mechanical owl (This tickles my Clash Of The Titans itch) and the rest of Olympus feature equally far-out visual cues. The gender reversal is not a gimmick, nor something to conjure sales. The first issue already suggests that gender politics and roles will be examined and questioned throughout.
I do feel a reasonable degree of knowledge of the original legends would help the reader here. In fact, I’d say that the more you know of the original and its’ setting, then the more you will get from the book. It is in no way inaccessible, but there is SO much here to digest that repeated readings will reward you. The final page cliffhanger was an unexpected twist and should prove to be quite the plot point as Odyssia attempts to return home.
Should you read ODY-C? Yes, yes and thrice yes. It’s an amazing feat; art that you have to re-examine again and again to fully absorb. Captions and text are written in verse. IN VERSE! This is literature! The inspiration is a tale almost three thousand years old, yet Fraction and Ward have managed to do something entirely new and fresh with it.