Review: Ody-C #8

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Review: Ody-C #8
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Christian Ward

Matt Fraction and Christian Ward return for the eighth issue of Ody-C, the gender-altered retelling of Homer’s Odyssey set in space. #8 consists of a young boy and an old man exchanging stories about the early days of Q’af; is it just us or does it feel we’ve had enough back story of Q’af? The boy’s story tells us of two brother kings, Hyrar and Zhaman, and how they came to the decision to perform mass rape and genocide on their subjects. Once again, light-hearted reading from Ody-C.

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#8 serves as an unsettling and poignant exploration of sexual violence as a means for control and vengeance in the kingdom of Q’af and the Ody-C universe as a whole. This tale of mass rape and misogyny has been passed down to the boy, who is able to recount the story perfectly from memory. The fact it has been shared through oral tradition indicates the misogyny that permeates the universe: why else would a child be exposed to such sexual violence and brutal instances of male dominance? This serves as a succinct comment on how patriarchal structures are inherited each generation. The second story, recounted by the old man, isn’t quite as compelling and well-rounded as the boy’s and the issue definitely loses pace as the story progresses.

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Fraction’s writing remains complex and dense, though Ody-C #8 sees him embrace more romantic and poetic language, seen especially on page 6: “Hyrar would breathe in night air flavoured ever so faintly of jasmine and pine for his bride / Zhaman would taste on his tongue the warm embers of cinnamon bark and would dream relentlessly only of him.” Fraction’s work on Ody-C had yet to be as sensual and dreamy as it is in these panels, even if it used to embellish the romance of an extramarital affair. While his dialogue remains as complex and elaborate as always, this issue marks the most accessible and enjoyable his writing as been on Ody-C.

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Ody-C #8’s focal point is of course the epic, violent orgy midway through the issue. It is at once sensual and brutal. It is wonderfully illustrated and cinematic in showing glimpses of harrowing violence, amplified by the jarring absence of dialogue: mass slaughter has never looked so good. Ward’s art work is as stupendous as always, and in #8 the bold, vibrancy of his colour schemes and grotesque violence compliment Fraction’s visceral writing perfectly.

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As satisfying and at times entertaining as Ody-C #8 proves to be, we can’t help but miss Odyssia, the hugely likeable and magnetic protagonist from the series’ earlier issues. Too much time has passed since the reader last encountered her and when back stories like the two explored in #8 struggle to connect fully to the primary plot her absence feels particularly pertinent. Of course, deviating from the core plot does allude to the epic journey of The Odyssey; the series is itself an enormous voyage, whether we like it or not.

Ody-C #8 may not be completely perfect but it is certainly an improvement on a run of lacklustre outings. What should be next is a reunion with our hero Odyssia while retaining the romance and accessibility of Fraction’s language. With sublime art work and more drive to the plot- even if the plot isn’t necessarily tied to the story arc as a whole- Ody-C may just be back on track.

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