Since beginning its run in November, Ody-C by Matt Fraction (Sex Criminals, Casanova) and Christian Ward (The Infinite Vacation) has rightfully gained a lot of attention. In this reimagining of Homer’s classic the Odyssey, our hero Odyssia has just emerged victorious from the hundred-year war with Troiia, and what she desires more than anything else is to return home. Unfortunately for her, it won’t be that easy.
This revamp takes the original epic through space and into the future with a nearly all-female cast. In addition to all that awesomeness, here is why you should be reading Ody-C.
1. Drop-Dead Gorgeous Art
What’s most initially striking about this comic is Christian Ward’s incredible artwork. If, like me, you are immediately drawn to bright colors, then it will be hard to miss Ody-C at your local comic shop. The psychedelic swirls on the cover of the first issue beg at least a flip through that reveals interior art that is even more stunning than the cover would suggest. Described by Matt Fraction as “just this side of eye-bursting,” Ward’s art creates a vibrant life for this story from the first page, that gives a unique spin to an old tale.
Ward is as creative with his paneling as he is with his colors. Reminiscent of scenes from Sandman and J.H. Williams III’s work on Batwoman, layouts vary from quick sequences of action panels and large circular structures to full page illustrations and multi-page spreads. The first panel alone takes up eight pages. Yes, eight pages.
Fraction and Ward make fantastic use of space with these layouts, and when reading you might go four or five pages without any blank space. With so much happening on each page, it could be easy to lose sight of what’s really going on. Fortunately, the pages of Ody-C, while busy, are clean enough to allow even a novice reader to decipher the action. When fights inevitably break out, Fraction and Ward’s smooth, streamlined layouts provide a heart-pounding reading experience that doesn’t compromise clarity.
2. Outstanding Writing
Between his work on Sex Criminals, Casanova, Hawkeye, and Satellite Sam, Matt Fraction has yet to let us down. Fans will be pleased to see him lending his talents to an epic like Ody-C, which is told almost entirely in prose. This narration style is different from most comics, even comics like Saga, that have a lot of narration use it sparingly and tend to have a more conversational tone. Reading Ody-C is almost like watching a movie with almost no dialogue in which everything is expressed through omniscient voiceover. This seems to go against the first rule of storytelling: show, don’t tell. But Fraction and Ward are skilled enough in their partnership that it doesn’t come off as stiff, redundant, or dull.
This is one of several ways that Fraction pays tribute to the Homeric tradition. He also begins the comic with a traditional invocation to the muses and even goes so far as to maintain an inexact form of the original dactylic hexameter or “dummy hexameter” as he calls it. When reading, this spices up the prose a bit, making it sound less like a one-sided conversation and more like a chant. And, if you choose, you can keep track of the stanzas by following the numbering Fraction uses to set this apart.
Ody-C may share many things with the Homeric epic from which it borrowed its name, but its setting is not one of them. Taking place several centuries in the future, the battle against Troiia lasts 100 years rather than ten, and leaves Odyssia floating through space rather than seas to return home.
Fraction and Ward took great pains to situate readers within the world of Ody-C, filling in those who aren’t familiar with the source material, and ensuring that no confusion would arise upon deviation from the original story. Remember that eight page first panel? On the back is a gigantic map and timeline that serve as points of reference for the rest of the comic. With so much going on and so much backstory that while relevant is impossible to fit in, these pages fill in some of the narrative gaps left by the expansive history. Homer may have recited the Odyssey expecting the listeners to understand every minute reference, but this creative team thankfully provide resources to provide inclusivity for all potential readers.
4. Ladies Everywhere
Speaking of deviations from the source material, did I mention that Fraction and Ward made nearly every character a woman? They didn’t just swap genders either, as the characters who were originally women are still women, leaving only one or two men in the story. We learn in issue two that this is the result of Zeus’ insecurities, who has killed all men in an attempt to prevent the birth of children who might usurp her power the way she usurped her father’s.
And, in another win for gender representation, Fraction and Ward have also introduced a race of genderless humans. We don’t know much about them yet, only that they have thwarted Zeus’ plan to halt childbirth. I’m looking forward to learning more about the gender dynamics in Ody-C; with all the risks the creators are taking with this comic, it would be a shame to see them shy away from difficult but relevant issues. It wouldn’t be a first, as Brian K Vaughan’s Y the Last Man also imagines a world without men, but his introduction of neutral gender could further analysis of the gender spectrum.
5. It’s Just Getting Started
You don’t need to be an expert on Greek mythology to enjoy Ody-C, though I recommend taking a quick stroll through Wikipedia as you read; it will only enhance your reading experience. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything going on in this comic, just take a deep breath and remember that so far, it’s only three issues in! If you’re even mildly intrigued then go get those. And don’t forget to pick up issue four on March 25!