So issue 3 of ODY-C is the line in the sand where Fraction and Ward say, “Yeah, we’ve seen everything that came before; we’ve seen the Harryhausen stuff, we’ve seen Troy. We’ve got that shit beat.” And dammit, I’m pretty sure they’re right. This issue, we get to meet a few more of the gods involved in determining when and how Odyssia and her crew will be able to get home (including a Dionysius made out of self-aware space wine, which makes a weird kind of sense); the crew of the ODY-C gains spoils of the vino-variety with which they will be able to defeat the real star of this issue: the motherfucking Cyclops.
The Cyclops is the metric by which any Odyssey adaptation is measured. If it’s done well, it can make you forgive a lot of things down the line, and if done poorly, it becomes emblematic of a lazy retelling of a classic. Luckily for this series, in swoops the bearded psychedelic comic book god of Wolverhampton, Christian Ward, with the most fascinatingly horrifying Cyclops I’ve ever seen. Aside from breasts numbering in the dozens, the real clincher is that sideways eyeball from the cover. If it was right side up, it would be silly; flip it 90 degrees, and it’s gonna horrify me all month. As per usual, Ward kills it on every single page, no matter what space-god-adventure-gonzo weirdness Fraction throws at him. This is one of those rare comics that could almost be read entirely without words, and it would still be catastrophically good.
Fortunately for us, Fraction’s words are seamless in a way that he usually doesn’t tend to work. Fraction’s a clever dude, and he knows it, so a lot of his comics feature as many interesting turns of phrase or quippy rejoinders as he can make work. (The only instance of that in this issue is one that might have just gotten away from him, where Odyssia claims that if the Cyclops is in pain, “pain means it feels. If it feels, it dies”; if that’s not “If it bleeds, we can kill it,” I’ll start wearing a hat so I can eat it.) With ODY-C, though, it feels like Fraction really respects the source material (aside from the gendered stuff, and the fact that the original wasn’t set in space, and the changing of the Cyclops being attacked by “No-One” to being attacked by “All-Men”--it reads like a misandrist wink-and-nod and I’m reveling in it), and his dialogue only serves to pop Ward’s art (they caption “They are troughs” will also haunt me for a good long time). His maintenance of a sense of meter is interesting, but for a work that you don’t tend to read out loud ever, I’m not sure how much it necessarily adds. It’s impressive, no doubt, and it makes the narration feel Homeric, but it also doesn’t seem like he’s beholden to it.
When this series started in December, The Odyssey was the epic I never bothered to actually read for class. It was so done and absorbed into popular culture that I almost felt I didn’t have to read it to know what happened. Then along came ODY-C and I ran out to buy not only the single issue of the comic, but the poem itself, to see if I could get ahead of Fraction and Ward. They’re doing a cultural service here, not only creating a female hero of mythical proportions, but inspiring not-so-great students like myself to get some educatin’.
This is a gorgeous book. Why aren’t you reading it yet?
ODY-C #3 Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Christian Ward Flatting: Dee Cunnifee Letterer: Chris Eliopolous Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/25/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital