Review: Ody-C #7

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Review: Ody-C #7
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Christian Ward

Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s psychedelic, gender-swapping epic Ody-C returns, with its second story arc exploring the rape culture and sexual politics of mythology. #7 sees Ody-C’s second story arc – focussed on the origins and tumultuous history of Q’af – developed further, telling the story of the gender-swapped Ene and He (Menelaus and Helen) and how Q’af became a paradise. The Q’af that has been so far depicted bears a striking contrast to the worlds depicted in the first five issues of Ody-C; indeed, “Q’af is a place with a past that betrays how its future would pay,” a world governed by and for women. One remaining and glaring problem is still the absence of Odyssia. While it’s cool to explore other back stories and histories within the universe, what made the first instalments of the series so exciting and worth pursuing was seeing Odyssia lead her army on this colossal journey. Her absence is certainly felt.

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There are many interesting themes explored throughout this Ody-C outing; most evident is the idea of the responsibility men have played in the world’s destruction. Through its graphic depiction and in contrast to the later matriarchal societal structure, the prevalence of revenge rape as a significant part of so much mythology is examined, as well as the question of what really defines a place as paradise. It’s a pity, then, that these themes are somewhat lost in the comic’s execution.

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For one, these ideas and the story at large are hindered by Fraction’s dry language and confusing forms of narration. After seven issues, the dense nature of the Ody-C’s language remains the title’s biggest challenge. There is a difficult rhythm to the dialogue and narration that doesn’t lend itself to best communicating the story. With a plot as complex as Ody-C and so many provocative themes, it’s disappointing that the language isn’t as clear and succinct. Great additions to the book, however, are the obscenities that make their way into the dialogue – “Fuck it’ thought Ere and went on her way” – which are jarring and make the eloquent but dry writing a little more exciting. Even the introduction and development of characters feels redundant, under-served by disorienting dialogue and washed out by beautiful, psychedelic illustration.

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As always, the art work in Ody-C is so stupendous it compensates for the meandering plot and dialogue. The gratuitous nature of this issue allows Ward to use an explosion of vibrant colour and utilise truly grim imagery in the name of giving the reader an insight into this dense mythology. From his grotesque human form to the hugely varied and stunning colour schemes throughout, Ward’s illustration compliments the story and captures its subject matter perfectly. The action and violence throughout the story are at the forefront, overshadowing the dialogue as with every other Ody-C issue. The bombastic quality to Ward’s art work, however, can prove a little overbearing and distracting from the big ideas Ody-C wants to explore. It’s bad enough following the dialogue without being distracted by the truly stupendous art work. Nobody is illustrating comics as well as Ward is for Ody-C.

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Ody-C #7 proves to be another dense instalment for the series. It’s frustrating to see a truly interesting take on The Odyssey – with a whole host of compelling themes and characters to explore – get lost in translation, especially when the art work is as sublime as it is. After another challenging read, throw us a bone and bring back our girl Odyssia.

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