Monthly comics are one of the greatest joys of the universe, says the latest update of the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when I checked my copy last night. It’s a fact comic fans all know this about them. When done well monthly comics have got great art, memorable dialogue, relatable characters, and it can all be read in one visit to the toilet. Other than fun though, I rarely feel layers of emotional and intellectual response from a monthly comic. With each release of Ody-C however, I feel more confirmed in the bubbling thought that comics are capable of being artistic spaces where creators and readers can engage in discourse not only about the medium, but also issues that undeniably impact each reader. In Ody-C #8, writer Matt Fraction and artist Christian Ward use their combined talents to create a sensorially visceral experience that highlights the horrific consequences perpetuated within patriarchal cultures wherein women are looked upon as possessions, disposable when no longer compliant (hey KSD!) with men’s desires. Most of the issue takes place in flashback as the boy that saved He’s (a male version of The Iliad’s Helen of Troy) life last issue recounts the origin behind Q’af’s bleeding pyramid, a story that unsurprisingly is rife with violence and sexual possession, two themes Fraction and Ward have been exploring to chilling effect this arc. Hyrar and Zhaman, brother-kings of Q’af, following the gods’ cursed storm that prevents them from leaving the planet, work towards converting Q’af into a paradise, their duties leading them to unconsciously neglect their respective spouses. Soon enough, their spouses find comfort in each other’s bodies, leading to their murder and the brother-king’s ritualistic marriage and execution of the young people of Q’af, the comic’s adaptation of the 1001 Nights initiating action that inspired this arc.
Although I’ve been continuously impressed by Ward’s work since the start, I was astonished this issue by how capable he’s able to depict both intimacy and violence with equal beauty. This connection between intimacy and violence further amplified the comic’s emotional impact on me as I forced to reckon with the fact that it all enraptured me regardless of whether bodies were being touched by tongues or cut by blades. On the page that depicts the orgy that the spouse’s affair builds to, we get multiple non-linear panels bathed in luscious reds and cool blues, showing the point-of-contact between people’s bodies. The effect builds into a frenzy of multiple bodies fucking as tongues, cocks, breasts, and saliva drips between the neglected lovers and the whores that reside in the brother-kings’ palace. Each image builds until we arrive at the bottom right panel showing a shot of cum. The surging energy, and bursting lust of the page make it one of the most erotic and artistically crafted series of panels I have ever seen, a page you’ll reexamine again and again while blushing and more tightly gripping on the comic’s pages.
After the brother-kings observe their cheating spouses engaged in this orgy, the slaughter of all the people present is presented in a series of four mostly wordless pages that use multiple-panels to show the deadly skill and efficiency the brother-kings employ in the slaughter. Ward capably injects a sense of madness and fear in every panel through extreme close-ups of both the attack as well as the garden’s well-maintained flowers. The juxtaposition between the red flowers of the garden and the dismembered parts creates a nauseating feeling when I recognize the insanity of such heinous violence occurring in a space constructed with the intent of evoking peace, a microcosm of the world that the brothers’ have shaped Q’af into where the surface beauty hides the ongoing ritual sacrifice committed by the brother-kings. The brothers’ bodies and swords, bathed in blood, stand out of the pages’ panels after the slaughter of the palace’s whores as male lords of this planet who then strike against their betraying spouses.
In addition to trusting Ward’s art to tell large sections of the issue, Fraction has gotten even better at crafting narration that adds greater emotional resonance to the slaughter. Following the slaughter, the boy narrator says the brother-kings recognized that “A demon loosed they could never contain,” making me realize that in the minds of the brother-kings their later ritual murder was an inevitable consequence of their spouses’ betrayal. Even though I haven’t seen his Ody-C scripts, I feel confident in saying that Fraction works really well in helping Ward shape each page into its own micro narrative, rich with detail that’s easily missed. For instance, on an early page, Ward shows in two panels how the brothers divide the work of improving Q’af, Hyrar leading mining of precious materials and Zhaman overseeing the manufacturing of items necessary for its citizens, a concise storytelling move that’s recognizable from Fraction’s Hawkeye run. Later in a page depicting the process of the ritual marriage and murder, Fraction and Ward work together to compose the page’s contents as something more than just a linear sequence of events, building a balletic narrative area as we see the betrothal and execution ritual, beheading and all.
The final few pages of the comic, told from the perspective of one of Queen Ene’s new crew members, tell a sadly familiar narrative of a Q’af woman who’s raped and murdered by a gang of men that go unpunished, the guilt of the action leading to the erection of a city of bone where Ene’s crew have visited in search of a means of escape from the planet. With the brother-kings’ story leading to one of my favorite issues so far with this comic, I’m hopeful that Fraction and Ward can continue their streak with Queen Ene and her crew of exploring new ways to use comics to create an emotional response that’s not only fun, but terrifying and beautiful. In a word, sublime.
Ody-C #8 Writer: Matt Fraction Artist/Colorist: Christian Ward Flatting: Dee Cunniffe Lettering: Chris Eliopoulos Publisher: Image Comics Price: Release Date: 10/28/15 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital