Holy living Christ. In all my time reading comics (says the sage 25-year old, who’s only really been reading them since a little bit before Civil War came out), I have never seen a comic that is this much of a trip on the eyes, while still maintaining perfect clarity. I’m a huge Matt Fraction fanboy, but with all due respect, I think for the run of ODY-C I’ll be singing Christian Wards praises to the gods. This issue begins with the murder of the Titans by their children, the gods, and Zeus’ punishing of her daughter Promethene. In this universe, Promethene didn’t bring fire and knowledge to the people, but rather procreation to a universe with only double X chromosomes (I don’t know if it’s relevant that she was chained to an X-shaped cross, but they say nothing makes it into a film or a comic by accident). It’s an interesting twist to the myth, and one that makes complete sense in terms of this genderbent, sci-fi world Fraction and Ward are living in. The second half of the book follows Odyssia and her crew to a pleasure world built on the bones of Promethene where the lotus-eaters live, forgetting all their worries (and everything else) and letting out their problems in levels based on the Inferno.
I’m always leery of how much plot to give away in any review, but it’s an especially strange row to hoe with ODY-C, since a lot of it is in The Odyssey (the lotus-eaters, Zeus and Poseidon deciding maybe Odyssia/eus can just fucking stay with the lotus-eaters, if he’s gonna be such an ass about his sacrifices, etc), but a lot of Odyssia’s character development, especially with her Sebex companion, is not in the book for fairly obvious reasons. I suppose it’s safe to say if you enjoy the plot of The Odyssey, you’ll see the familiar notes and like the changes; if you’ve never read it (like this reviewer, who went out and bought a copy after issue 1, and is currently plodding through it), you’ll still find things you know just from existing in our cultural zeitgeist, and you’ll find things that surprise you that you’ll enjoy.
Okay, enough about the writing, let’s talk about Christian Ward. I was a big fan of Infinite Vacation, and basically every time Ward does a variant or cover, be it for Doctor Spektor or Original Sin, I’m in for that. Now that he’s back doing long-form, he is literally blowing my mind with every page turn. Whether its his violent color palette that attacks your eyes and draws you into the page, or his intensely rendered cityscapes and planetoids, this is a man who is literally bursting with imagination. How did he skate under the radar for so goddamn long?
There are two masterful sequences in this book: one is Zeus, when she decides to solve the universal problem of men in what I’m going to call a 1 3/4 page splash, and the other is the two or three page sequence where Odyssia and her crew explore the lotus-eaters’ planet, going through all the different levels. They’re completely bonkers ways to relay information to the reader, but the art is phenomenal and the writing is both feeding off of the art and getting out of its way, and letting you revel in all this weirdness that’s happening, that these are the glimpses of a book firing on all cylinders.
After a first issue that was a little heavy on exposition, this issue feels like it moves at a much faster clip, giving character beats and phenomenal visuals in tandem and quickly. It’s been said (I’m pretty sure by Fraction) that first issues are hard and second issues are even harder, but team ODY-C had a killer first issue, and their second issue almost made faint memory of the first. This is the kind of book that everyone across the board should be able to find something they like in. After all, it’s one of our primary cultural narratives. Who couldn’t love this book?
Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Christian Ward Flatting: Dee Cunniffe Letters: Chris Eliopoulos Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/7/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital