Someone ought to ensure that Matt Fraction and Christian Ward continue making comics together until one of them falls to bits. Already a fan of this sci-fi epic during its first arc, this issue converted me to the coveted status of super fan. With Matt Fraction delivering a triple-layered script and Christian Ward creating some of the most fluid page layouts in recent memory, Ody-C has the makings of becoming a classic. Rather than get back to the Ody-C and her captain Odyssia’s voyage back to her family, this issue checks in on Ene, commander of the ship previously seen in the premiere issue, and He, one of the universe’s few remaining men blamed with igniting the war. In the premiere issue, I had been intrigued how the gender reversal of He would impact his character. Therefore, the focus on He this issue delighted me, even more so once Fraction uses He’s interest in stories to layer a few other myths into this Greek narrative. A substantial portion of the issue devotes itself to rendering these stories-within-stories, and Fraction excels at weaving their themes into the narratives of both this issue and the comic more generally. Momentarily tragic, the issue’s ending offers He a shot at normalcy he has little chance at in the Greek gods’ universe.
One of my favorite things about Ody-C is its commitment to telling a story at a distinct pace, seamlessly moving between large action scenes and wonderings by characters. In an issue that features little of the bloody violence seen in previous issues, Christian Ward channels his efforts into some gorgeous pages depicting the stories He reads. Each layer of story takes on its own art style, the page layout becoming more abstract in the story about Inanna and the farmer who rapes her. Ward provides Inanna with a futuristic spectral design that’s enchanting and chilling in the moment where she squishes the head of her rapist. Even when depicting this murder, Ward uses the resultant blood to divide the page’s borders, lending the page a steady page as it pulls out of that story into the one He reads, and then finally to an image of He reading the story. In this final image, He looks back at the reader as if aware that we’re observing him as just another layer of storytelling. It’s fun meta-storytelling that aids in the comic’s exploration of gender and violence while also further expanding the comic’s universe, the planet Q’af housing a unique society that hopefully the comic decides to revisit.
Subverting the trope of the female concubine, He provides insight into how men have come to be seen since their extinction. Throughout the issue, it’s evident that the other characters view He solely as an object of pleasure. At one point, he’s bathed and adorned only to be stood-up by Ene. Despite his expressionless mask, He conveys a wide range of emotions through his body language and dialogue... However, just as we’re most likely to feel intense sympathy for He, the comic simultaneously offers up a case for why He’s ilk might just be better of remaining extinct. His readings provide evidence for just why women may be better off without men, both stories concerning the abuses suffered by women mortal and divine by selfish men. He’s seemingly happy end here feels well-earned following the enslavement and lack of agency he previously faced.
I’ve read a few times that Matt Fraction doesn’t think very highly of his faux Greek hexameter, but his effort really pays off by the way even small bouts of exposition become interesting under the hynotic syntax. Paired with Ward’s art, the two provide this comic a feeling as though it’s originating unfiltered from their imaginations. Their understanding of this classic myth and storytelling more generally exudes onto each page. I recommend Ody-C to anyone bored by nine panel structures who want to get lost in a comic’s art.
Ody-C #6 Writer: Matt Fraction Artist and Colorist: Christian Ward Flatting: Dee Cunniffe Lettering: Chris Eliopoulos Publisher: Image Comics Price: #3.99 Release Date: 8/12/15 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital