On November 26th, Image Comics released the start of a psychedelic epic journey spanning time and space with story by Matt Fraction and art by Christian Ward. It’s not your average space odyssey, it’s ODY-C. Featuring a gender-bent cast of the famous and familiar Homer’s Odyssey (yes, the Greek epic poem) and set in the backdrop of far-out outer space, this book is eye-popping, jaw-dropping, and admittedly head-scratching, but immersive with a lore and mythology all its own.
The premiere issue includes an 8-page fold out spread detailing on one side the history of this universe, from the titans down to the war Odyssia fights in and eventually wins, and even then it goes further to give you an expansive look at the world of this book. There is also a small stylized map of the solar system, and on the other side of this massive spread is a huge, mural-like painting of some of the warriors observing a battlefield. Immediately, this serves to provide some history and immerse readers in the strange, surreal world of ODY-C. It is a lengthy read, being an 8-page spread, but it adds to the experience of the story within.
Thinking back to high school literature class, this book asks readers to remember the war hero King Odysseus, the pantheon of Greek gods, the Trojan War, and the grueling journey for the tired war heroes to return home affected by the machinations of the fickle gods. It takes those basic concepts and sets them aboard the swiftship ODY-C, with clever Queen Odyssia at the womb-like helm, surrounded by her faithful (and some not-so-faithful) female warriors. She pilots the ship following their victory over Troiia, the tired soldiers wanting nothing more than to return home. Of course, it’s never that simple.
Their fate is in the hands of the imposing pantheon of gender-bent gods and goddesses, lead by the zaftig Zeus and her technicolor lightning bolts. Among the company are the lithe messenger goddess Hermes on her hoverboard, the angry goddess Poseidon whose body appears to be made of ethereal, nebulous fluid, and the stalwart god Athena with his own space-owl companion.
The rest of the pantheon appears too, designs small and somewhat muddied by the brightness of the main divinities introduced in the first book. There is no doubt they will appear later with equally psychedelic designs as they influence Odyssia’s journey to return to Ithicaa, and to her wife Penelope and their son Telem (the two of whom remain fairly similar in conception to Odysseus’s Penelope and his son Telemachus).
Fraction utilizes a poetic style of writing reminiscent of the classic Homeric telling of this epic, and Ward’s fluid and vivid artwork combines neatly with the words to produce a visually-rich and engaging adaptation of classic themes from myth. These themes are combined with original ideas stemming from the creators’ choice to change the genders of the characters, making this work dominantly female. Even then, the focus is not on the gender of the characters but on the challenges of their journey to return from war. While it takes a lot of inspiration from the original source material, this is not simply a straight adaptation with the setting and genders altered.
In this way, some aspects can be a little confusing even to those familiar with the original epic, with names of characters like Agamemnon (here, Gamen) and Menelaeus (here, Ene) being changed. Additionally, concepts from the original story are updated not only cosmetically to fit the style but also functionally, like the transport and weaponry the women use. However, fascinating themes arise from this juxtaposition of feminine elements like the interior of the ship, reminiscent of a nurturing womb, and the external terror of war that haunts the soldiers.
This first issue is definitely one that requires rereading after the initial look at the story. The art works with the text to create a cohesive experience despite the strange elements of sci-fi scattered throughout. I will admit I have still not fully understood all the elements of the first issue, having read it twice now, but that may be a personal fault of mine. (I’ll blame it on final exams stealing my focus.) However, this book promises to deliver an immersive, thought-provoking, stunning story as it follows (and further deviates from) the classic epic that so many are familiar with.
I’m personally excited to see how Fraction and Ward will handle the Island of Lotus Eaters, the Cyclops, and the Sirens. In the meantime, I’ll have to reread the book again and buff up on the more intimate details of the story. I give this book a 4/5 technicolor lightning bolts for being colorful, exciting, innovative, and downright trippy. I mean, what could be cooler than an empire of fierce warrior women dominating the starways in a thought-powered ship?
Issue #2 of ODY-C will be available from Image Comics, both online and at your local retailer, on December 24, so you have plenty of time to get your hands and brains wrapped around the first issue in the meantime. Last minute Christmas gift for the space epic mythology lover in your life?
If you like tough women in space, stay tuned for my upcoming review of the newest comic book by Kelly Sue DeConnick- Bitch Planet from Image Comics, available December 10th.