I have an embarrassing English major confession (I may have gotten a degree in Playwriting, but I was an English major in practice and in spirit for a long time): I never read The Odyssey. I don’t even think I got as far as the Lotus-Eaters in the book. The Iliad? Read the hell out of it; loved it, even. But I just couldn’t get hooked with Odysseus. As such, there’s probably a lot of layers to popular culture that were inspired by The Odyssey that I just didn’t catch, like O Brother Where Art Thou?, but ODY-C is the first one that’s made me want to go back and read the damn thing. Odyssia is the finest warrior of Ithicaa is bound home with her crew and her trusty ship, ODY-C. They leave at the same moment as Gamem (who I believe is Agamemnon) and Ene (Menelaus?) with her prize, He, in tow. They only show up briefly here, but the implication is that we will follow some of their journey home, as well. Odyssia and her crew meet a fleet of Cicone pirates on their way home, while the gods make new games for themselves to play with the lives of pathetic humans.
Fraction has made a lot of writing this series as his direct response to the rampant and generally ignored sexism in the comic book industry; he didn’t want his daughter to have to ask why he allowed himself to get sucked into that terrible cycle as a writer. There are some scenes of female nudity, but they’re tasteful, and related to furthering a character’s journey to reluctantly return to the family she’s left behind. Meanwhile, the book passes the Bechdel Test in the first page, and continues to do so over the course of the issue.
The issue of femininity and the creative team’s response to it is addressed throughout the issue in subtle ways, mostly in visual renderings. Some of the Olympians are women with beards, some of the women are much larger than what you tend to see in a comic book, they’re all shapes, sizes and colors, but they are all women. I’m excited to see if they’ll bring in the idea of being trans in the comic, but who knows; it’s early days after all (NOTE: please see addendum at bottom of review). My only real complaint about it is that, while it’s a book about an all-female world, it’s created by an all-male team. I think that lets it veer into sci-fi territory more often instead of inquisitive dissection of an experience, since there’s not a great frame of reference, but it’s done respectfully and it’s done well, so hopefully that kind of thing will ramp up in the near future.
Chris Eliopolous is one of the most sought-after and popular letterers in the industry, and he’s worked with Fraction before, so it’s not a surprise to see him on ODY-C. However, he’s hitting new heights in his lettering game here. He’s bringing back colored balloons, mostly captioned dialogue, and for a comic that’s based on (and tries to keep some of the tone and lyricism of) an epic poem, the lettering stands out as a way to make that lyricism pop, make the rhythm of the tone poem happen. It’s one of the few times when the lettering should be one of the forefront players of the book, and they killed it.
I don’t think Fraction would disagree when I say the big star of this book is Christian Ward. Ward has been around for a minute, notably doing Infinite Vacation with Nick Spencer, and some short stories and covers, but this book makes those all look like rough drafts. From page one panel one, through an eight-page gatefold to the very end of the issue, Ward’s art jumps off the page like a blacklit poster had a baby with a magic eye and they made a comic book out of it. He’s got clean lines and vibrant colors with exquisite details like a new Moebius, and he manages to make an Oldboy-style hallway fight read in a comic book. That’s crazy impressive.
According to the letters page, they were going for a mix of Barbarella and a Cirque de Soleil show, and they hit the nail on the fucking head. It’s a kinetic, psychedelic, trippy journey through this new universe, this new history, with innovative panel layouts, action, and a musical quality to the whole thing. It’s a helluva comic, unlike anything I’ve read in awhile, and I can’t wait for the second issue to come out.
NOTE: This review was written based on the review copy Image sent us. This copy lacked several things, notably the eight-page gatefold at the beginning that houses the entirety of the Trojan War in a spread worthy of Joe Sacco’s The Great War, as well as a map of the universe and a timeline of the events and political machinations that led to the war in Fraction and Ward’s universe. It was also missing the last three pages of story. Having seen those in the flesh, I can only recommend the issue more; places I thought the issue was going turn out to have been resolved, but I am now presented with an even cooler twist, and a truly mindblowing feat of book design, illustration, and world-building at the beginning. Bravo, sirs. My original score stands.
Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Christian Ward Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11.26.14 Format: Print/Digital