Review: Ody-C #3

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Review: Ody-C #3
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Christian Ward

This week sees the return of Image’s publication Ody-C, the gender-bent sci-fi adaptation of the Odyssey courtesy of writer Matt Fraction and artist Christian Ward. As the action unfolds in a futuristic, war-ravaged universe, the reader gets more insight into Zeus and other characters at the beginning of what will be a colossal saga full of gorgeously illustrated feminist sci-fi.

The comic opens with the disturbingly beautiful birth of Zeus, which does not end well for her birth-mother but makes for brilliant comic book art. We then follow Odyssia as she leaves to continue her epic saga towards Ithicaa, which in this issue sees her face off with classic literature’s Big Bad the Cyclops. Even the Cyclops is subject to a gender-switch, boasting one eye but many, many breasts all over her body. It is only really when the Cyclops appears and some unbridled carnage takes place that the comic gains pace, suggesting the action scenes are what make Ody-C as opposed to the preamble of the journey. It is during these action scenes, for example, that we engage fully in Odyssia, as she becomes a courageous and blood thirsty warrior.

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The art work, as always, is primary in Ody-C; Ward consistently presents incredible work that lends itself to the vibrant, dynamic universe Fraction has conjured. He pays such close attention to detail, as seen most evidently in the first panel showing Kylos. Bold colours and shapes decorated with intricate detailing give each panel enormous amounts of texture. The figures of each character are diverse and visually challenging, which is a refreshing change of pace from the typical hyper-sexual female form seen too often in comic books. The artwork, on occasion, blurs the transition between scenes, making it difficult for the reader to know exactly when one scene begins and ends. But on the whole, Ward’s work is Ody-C’s saving grace.

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The dialogue and story, however, remain as unclear as ever. To be fair, the subject matter does not necessarily lend itself to quick, engaging banter and a fast-paced plot. But surely this gender-bent, sci-fi extravaganza allows Fraction to veer away from what would maybe put people off reading the actual Odyssey and make it more accessible. In issue 2 he did a good job of making the current plot clear enough to understand, but the dialogue is too dry to compete against the overwhelming, bombastic artwork. “Archaen kindness awaited the satyrs of Kylos, of whom it was said were quite nourishing” does not necessarily make for easy comprehension.

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Plus there are so many characters it takes a few readings to fully acknowledge and differentiate between them, which in itself makes Ody-C somewhat difficult to follow or enjoy. There are moments of humour, glimpses of dialogue that perk the reader’s interest, such as when the Cyclops roars “Who the good fuck are these whores in my home?!”; but on the whole it is the dry narration and dialogue and murky plot that lets Ody-C down.

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There are many great qualities about Ody-C; the gender-switch is a refreshing interpretation that provides a nuanced and challenging reading of such an important, well-known text, and it allows Fraction to incorporate broad comments on gender and sexual politics. The narration and plot, however, can be murky and difficult to follow, drowned out by Ward’s exquisite art work. The second half of the comic is when Ody-C truly comes into its own, suggesting that the comics’ success lies in the messy carnage and action as opposed to the slightly confusing character development seen in this issue’s first half. Hopefully the action scenes become a bigger part of the story and we continue to see Odyssia for the blood-thirsty warrior of whom we have only had a glimpse so far.