Review: Ody-C #1

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Ody-C cover

Review: Ody-C #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Christian Ward

Image has released Ody-C, a new series by Marvel alumnus Matt Fraction, creator of the brilliant Image release Sex Criminals, and artist Christian Ward, known for his work on Image’s The Infinite Vacation and Young Avengers. Ody-C is the latest in a long line of reinterpretations of The Odyssey in various media (Ulysses, O Brother Where Art Thou?, and even Tank Girl, who went through her own glorious punk odyssey) with a few key alterations: the series sees the story undertake some major gender-swapping, with all the principal male characters from the original epic poems being written as women, and the action unfolds in a futuristic, war-ravaged universe. Odysseus becomes Odyssia in a gender-switch that comes at the same time as a certain bearded Norse-God undergoes a gender swap of his own.

Odyssia herself is a complex and engaging character: her gender-swapping does not change the character of Odysseus- she is a strong, victorious warrior regardless of her sex- which is important and she feels a longing and lack of fulfilment having won this colossal war, with conflicting feelings of homesickness and a lust for war. She tells her lover Ero “What if the thing that you fought so hard for…what reward is this peace if it’s war that stirs me?…Travelling home should at least fill my soul, yet distraction and battle still lure me away.” She seems ill-prepared for the aftermath of her victory, which will provide an intriguing nuance to her role as an almighty warrior in coming issues. “Here stand three women that ended the war to end all other wars for all time. What would come next would be simple enough for her.” If an ironic LOL existed in this alternate universe, Odyssia would be all over it. After all, there is a lot of ground to cover, and Odyssia will face unprecedented obstacles that challenge and define her.

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The gender-switch makes for compelling characters and story-telling, with the saga immediately assuming a different vibe; we see male submission (a guy being led on a leash on all fours, having been disfigured by Odyssia) and a constant female authority that brings a refreshing, feminist perspective to what is quite literally a classic story in which the men run the show. It’s hard not to find her declaration “Warrior Queens…we are victorious!” awesome and inspiring.

Ward’s art work is visually stunning, as seen in the gorgeous full page spread that kicks off the first issue of Ody-C. The space setting immediately and perfectly lends itself to epic, vibrant visuals, allowing Ward to incorporate bold colours and eccentric post-human bodies. This alternate time and reality affords Ward a psychedelic surrealism that works perfectly with the epic saga about to unfold.

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The visuals in Ody-C are often bombastic, perhaps to a fault: Ward’s art work may be slightly overwhelming and distracting in relation to the dialogue throughout. It is hard to keep focused on what is a fairly challenging read when the background is so striking and energetic. Fraction remains faithful to the idea of narration, which is effective and important given the source material. However this reliance on narration and sparse dialogue between characters risks creating a distance between the reader- if unfamiliar with The Odyssey- and the material, or at least making it more difficult to engage immediately with the text. Fraction also creates interpolation between ancient poetic language and contemporary colloquialisms (“Farewell, Ody-C. F**k the war”), which is a striking and refreshing addition to the issue.

Ody-C is yet another sublime reinterpretation of the epic poetry that has inspired artists for generations. The challenge when tackling The Odyssey is to present something refreshing and dynamic but still engaging and moving. Ody-C arguably has the capacity to do so judging by its first issue; Odyssia is a bold and intriguing character that will hopefully evolve throughout her immense journey, and it is exciting to consider what aspects of the original tale Fraction will include or deviate in this surreal hyper-reality. Ody-C is a promising new title ideal for lovers of the Classics and comics about girls who run the world and think nothing of it.