ODY-C #2 is a visually arresting, thrilling cosmic journey that is presently defying my attempts to review, but let’s try to break it down!
Where are all the men, anyway? In the first few pages, Matt Fraction and Christian Ward expand on the universe they’ve brought us into, showing us that men did exist at one point — just until Zeus got rid of them all, in a preemptive strike against any children who might seek to overthrow her, as she did her father Cronus. Thumbnails upon thumbnails show men of different species and colour; it’s not clear if these were men that existed or may have existed, but it’s probably both. The actions of Zeus here are incredibly petty in a way that is completely in line with the capricious Greek gods of the epic poems of old, that I wouldn’t blame anyone for not realising this is a Fraction invention (or is it?!).
Zeus getting rid of all the men leads Promethene (Prometheus) to create “not man”, “not woman”, but sebex, a new gender capable of pro-creating with women. For this transgression, Zeus punishes Promethene by turning the evocative drug-like lotus flower against her. Promethene ends up catatonic, a giant in space that our hero Odyssia and her comrades use as a rest stop. And so we come to Odyssia, and also a sebex: her concubine, Ero.
“Here, then, comes this goddamn talk again,” which might be my favourite line and panel in this issue, if only for how Ward draws the apathy and disinterest in Odyssia’s face. Ero wants to carry O’s child; O does not. She already has a child in Ithaca. Ero is a concubine, presumably a war slave, and this should not surprise her–yet it sets her off, and she lashes out: Odyssia does not really want to go home to Ithaca.
Bad move. Odyssia ends up leaving Ero behind on Ithaca, even while Zeus and Poseidon wonder at the truth of Ero’s words, and plot against the heroine, deciding the “throw a roadblock or two in her way”, and set the stage for, well, Odyssia’s odyssey back home. On Ody-C.
The Good/The Bad
What could be a more fitting tale for the cosmic grandeur of space than that of the gods and heroes of The Odyssey? Conversely, what could be more fitting for the epic adventure of The Odyssey than the vast expanses of space? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of fiction really consider the fact that we are all little specks in an incredible universe. Fraction and Ward don’t consider it — they just use it very naturally, as the backdrop and playground for their gods, and the result is visually arresting and evocative.
I love looking at space photographs of nebulae (have you seen the new photos of the Pillars of Creation? wow!) and the pages of ODY-C #2 form an illustrated smorgasbord of those natural wonders. I can’t imagine the premise or conceit of this comic would work half as well in the hands of another artist. Ward’s space landscapes are colourful and trippy and colossal, as are his depictions of Zeus, Prometheus, and the other “divine” characters. Somehow the more intimate scenes–such as Ero and Odyssia enjoying a smoke and hot tub soak together–fit in just as seamlessly.
That said, I do feel like the colours sometimes went a bit too far in washing out the details in the art, subsequently distorting the overall imagery being presented. There’s a little feature at the back showing the pencils, flats and final colours, and while the end product is stunning, it seems to lack the nuance of the original pencils.
On the words side, Fraction appears to have reined himself in with the ‘verse, perhaps because he’s settling into the style more. Just as well, because the narrative itself was obscure at parts, particularly during the explanation of the lotus and Promothene’s fate, and inaccessible verse would have made it all even more difficult to follow.
I’m of the feeling of that a comic doesn’t need to explain the lack of men and presence of an unconventional gender norms, which is just as well, because Fraction and Ward don’t do that. Rather, the history of what happened to the men, and the origins of the sebex, establish Zeus’s power and investment in the story’s proceedings. TL;DR, the gods aren’t to be messed with, they don’t like clever mortals, and they are going to make Odyssia’s life pretty damn difficult.
ODY-C #2 lays down the law: you don’t need to be familiar with Greek myth, the Trojan War, or The Odyssey to follow this comic, because in the vein of the best remixes and reinterpretations, its marching to the beat of its own drum. So now that we’ve had our introductions and our myth/world-building, hopefully it’s onward to adventures in next month’s issue! And I can’t wait to see how that takes shape under the bold stewardship of Matt Fraction and Christian Ward.
[This review was originally written for Word of the Nerd.]