Ody-C #3 launches with a birthing scene. Thanks to the cold open, we are not given the names of the three characters we see (parents and midwife), but the midwife does seem overly interested in the paternity of the child that is about to be born. “Ask, my child,” she says. “Ask after your man’s divinity.”
“God dammit, Hera,” comes the reply, in the very last panel, and that’s when anyone who is familiar with Greek myth will realise, with pleasant surprise, that the birth we’re witnessing in these pages is that of Dionysus. As in the myths, Zeus here reveals herself, but as in myths, mortals cannot look upon the true form of gods and live, and the mother (unnamed, but presumably Semele), bursts into flame. Zeus does save the foetus and nurture it in her thigh.
In these two pages, Matt Fraction and Christian Ward elegantly demonstrate that Dionysus should rightly have no love for his step-mother Hera. Yet Hera, in the (quite fluid) present time of the comic, seeks to recruit Dionysus to her cause; another god to stand in opposition to Zeus and Poseidon as they seek to disrupt Odyssia’s journey home.
Which gives us a nice segue to see what exactly Odyssia and her crew are up to: rescuing a temple of Apollo that is under siege, thus gaining Apollo’s blessing. It’s an odd, short detour to the main course of the issue, but Matt Fraction does have a nice note in the back-matter discussing how The Odyssey is filled with all sorts of strange little side stories like this.
The meat of the issue sees Ody-C reaching one of the major milestones of The Odyssey: the meeting with the giant, monstrous Cyclops that seeks to eat all of Odyssia and her crew. Only because they broke into her home and tried to steal her stuff, of course. Still, “this is no honourable end”, declares Odyssia, and leads her women in a fight against the Cyclops–a fight that ends badly, with Odyssia and the remains of her crew trapped in pens, waiting to be devoured. But Odyssia is known for her wits and her wiles, and the issue ends with an ominous panel of her in the dark, ordering her crew to gather the dead and start a fire. I fully expect she will have devised a scheme to achieve both revenge and escape, and I look forward to seeing how Fraction and Ward decide to interpret that tale.
As it is, Odyssia here declares her name to be “All-Men, a contrast to the “Nobody” of the Homeric verses. A reference to “not all men“, perhaps? Perhaps not, but it certainly gives Fraction a nice way to take shots at the patriarchy through the voice of the Cyclops of Kylos.
I like little touches such as these where Fraction changes up the story–er, more than it’s already been changed, that is–to further differentiate this interpretation and make it something fresh and exciting. I know how Odysseus in The Odyssey gets out of this mess, but I don’t know if that is exactly how Odyssia will manage it, play by play, and there is an exciting sort of tension and conflict in not knowing for sure.
Yet, the homages that Fraction and Ward do make to the original poems add great depth to the story. I don’t know if Fraction’s verse follows the correct meter, but it sure sounds pretty and appropriate to the atmosphere of Ward’s art, with lines like: “onslaught breeds onslaught as Achaean fire burns bright in the dark“.
Ward’s art continues to defy description. Scenes with the gods in their heavenly, metaphysical cosmos are laden with stars skies and planets. The composition in these pages is busy and bursting with colour; a stark contrast to the scenes of Odyssia and her crew in the strange, dank home of the Cyclops. The landscapes of the planet of Kylos forms yet another contrast, filled with eerie swamps (including some floating ones), orange skies and strange planets beyond the horizon.
Overall, Ody-C continues to be a compelling, colourful and poetic take on a beloved epic poem. There are more nuances than I can cover in the scope of this review, particularly with how the “feminisation” of the cast throws everything into a newer, far more interesting light than the overly male-gaze-y origins of the myth, but I’m hoping I still have time, because Fraction and Ward are clearly in it for the long haul. I look forward to delving into all these nuances further as we continue to follow Odyssia and the Ody-C on what will certainly be an adventurous, cosmos-spanning journey back to Ithaca.
This review was originally posted on Word of the Nerd.