Review: Ody-C #5
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Christian Ward
This week sees Image continue Ody-C, the gender-bent sci-fi adaptation of the Odyssey courtesy of legendary comic writer Matt Fraction and artist Christian Ward. Following on from last issue’s venture to the futuristic, war-ravaged universe, #4 saw Odyssia defeat the Cyclops with the skin of her teeth and introduced a new male character- exposed penis and all- in its ominous cliff hanger in which he creepily instructs an underling to “bring the ladies onboard and attend to their every need” on his ship.
Ody-C #5 opens with Zeus overlooking the carnage of Archean death in front of her- gorgeously illustrated- while this issue introduces Aelous, one of the first prominent male characters in the series so far who is pampered atrociously by “scads of nympthettes waiting only” for him. He has built a starship that could facilitate a considerably shorter trip to Ithicaa; the only way he can give it to our hero Odyssia, however, is if he has a son to call his heir, which may prove difficult in a universe in which women cannot birth sons…
What is interesting is that the reader is presented with an unfamiliar angle of this gender-bending adaptation. There are obviously few to no men in the universe- as Odyssia says, “men are more rare than an Archean coward”- but in this instance the one man is treated and worshipped as a deity. His only real satisfaction, however, relies completely on a woman: conceiving a son is a two-man job, so to speak, and his relentless, fruitless pursuit of a male heir leaves him frustrated in this matriarchal structure. This is the first time the reader has seen women as “disposable” in Ody-C as they tirelessly try and birth a son for Aelous. But Odyssia has a plan in action to get the ship she needs and school Aelous in matriarchal authority.
The writing maintains Fraction’s identity and remains at its best when the sometimes dense story-telling is interrupted with irreverent and hilarious quips (“This is death during wartime and it is capricious as shit”). It is moments like Artemis dropping c-bombs that prevent the dialogue from becoming too dry, but they are too infrequent. As always seems to be the case with Ody-C, it becomes slightly hard to want to follow the story as it progresses, with the epic, cinematic art work serving as a distraction from the narrator’s comparatively subtle contribution. Perhaps it also comes down to the vast array of characters, names oand faces to recognise, but the story and character development lacks development in some senses.
As always, the sublime art and colour work courtesy of Christian Ward takes centre stage in Ody-C; he manages to utilise fine lines, bold colours and epic backdrops to add staggering beauty to even the grisliest, most grotesque scenes. Never has carnage looked so good. The figures are suitably hyper-real for an intergalactic adaptation of a classic poem- vibrant, unnatural skin colours, bulbous eyes, angular limbs- and Ward interestingly plays with gender; the stunning and voluptuous Zeus maintains her beard in the gender-swap adaptation, while Aelous stereotypically feminine traits like long nails and a womanly face. Provocative and epic, the art work as always threatens to overshadow the story rather than compliment it, but it is so good it barely even matters.
Ody-C #5 works well most of the time; it explores themes of gender politics and power provocatively, introducing a heinous male character to challenge the female-centric and playing with gender within the characters themselves through their design. The art work is consistently stupendous, but while there are a few moments of irreverent fun, the dialogue remains a little dry in comparison to the bombastic art work and colossal themes explored. Overall, Ody-C turns out another compelling issue to the series.