Following the fall of Troiia, cunning Odyssia wends her long way home to Ithicaa across the stars, hindered by the jealous space goddess Poseidon for the Pantheon’s amusement. This brilliant reimagining of Homer’s “Odyssey” finds all of these legendary characters’ genders inverted or shifted into ambiguity and takes their sprawling acts of war across the galaxy, upping the stakes for a visually stunning new saga. Brutal and visionary, Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s “ODY-C” is nothing short of epic.
Fraction serves up an eclectic blend of homage and reinvention, ultimately spinning his famous source material into something entirely fresh and exciting. In keeping with this, his narrative retains a lyrical, rhythmic beat that recalls ancient poetry but also includes infrequent colloquialisms that find power in the memorable way they jar the reader with their bluntness. The pace plods forward in a tired, weary way like a drumbeat, despite the action, which powers the story forward while giving it an appropriately solemn tone. Though the issue sustains a third person omniscient narrative with spurts of dialogue, the diction is tight and clipped, leaving Ward’s artwork to shoulder the bulk of the world building.
That isn’t to say, of course, that the world building is left completely in Ward’s more-than-capable hands; Fraction’s method is subtle and leans on the original “Odyssey” for help without relying on it too much. That is, he structures the plot in the same way — the long journey home against divine will — but has already reordered some episodes; what’s more, he changes some key scenes, like replacing the sorceress Circe with Cicione mercenary ships, with clever references that allude to the original without borrowing the idea entirely. This episode, in particular, showcases Odyssia’s lust — not for women, as in the original, but for battle; a clever turn that reasserts Odyssia’s autonomy from her male counterpart. Further, Fraction gives himself some wiggle room by shifting focus to Gamem and Ene — this world’s version of Agamemnon and Menelaus, respectively. Their ships, and thereby their stories, are emphasized as separate to the main Odyssia plot. Fraction, then, doesn’t restrict himself to a “retelling” of the tale; he deftly sets up to expand this world with other characters who, it seems, will become just as important in the long run.
Letterer Chris Eliopoulos deserves some serious accolades for his ability to truly capture the rhythmic nature of Fraction’s words. With most of the story told through narration, he opts out of speech bubbles completely, instead filling dialogue boxes with color to indicate spoken words. This allows the narration to maintain its flow, which contributes to the holistically lyrical feel of the story, and makes the few instances of dialogue really pop. The boxes appear scattered throughout the page, winding downwards like a free verse poem. Additionally, the boxes themselves are wavy rather than the usual rigid squares, which gives the illusion of paper floating through space — a nice touch that enhances the surreal, galactic setting. Eliopoulos’ work here is simply brilliant.
Ward opens the issue with a full page spread that looks like a stained glass window transcribed to paper for all its creative use of blank space, circular layout, and vivid yellows and reds. His work holds that same careful devotion throughout with page after page offering a veritable smorgasbord of stunning images. He embodies the foreignness of deep space with practiced ingenuity, showcased in his Greek-influenced costumes, abstract galaxies, and overtly feminine ship designs; further, the way he uses Odyssia’s mane of white hair as the plume of her Spartan helmet enhances her character by positioning her as inseparable from her theater of war. His knack for creativity is made abundantly clear in his first interior shot of Odyssia’s ship, the ODY-C. With Fraction’s words as a rough guide, he invents gorgeous mechanics for the ship’s underbelly that comes across easily and clearly in a single page.
Though he uses panel boxes occasionally, Ward’s layouts are most effective when they blend the action together; more often than not, whole pages must be taken in all at once before the smaller details can be appreciated, for Ward’s layered approach yields many rewards on subsequent readings. His figure work and body language are strong, bold, and noble, befitting of a regal Pantheon and war-hardened warriors; his expressions, subtle and on point. His coloring choices bring the universe to life with a dramatic burst of pink, purple, and blue and a spattering of brilliant white stars. Ward makes the galaxy feel like the bloody Trojan shores with a full page dedicated to the space ships as they hurtle through space, adding the image of a herd of horses for gravitas as they make their turn for home. Although some figures lose their clarity during the issue’s confusing Cicione battle, words hardly do justice to Ward’s impressive work on this issue as a whole.
Fraction and Ward’s “ODY-C” #1 is the weird sci fi “Odyssey” fever dream you didn’t know you wanted. Following the trials of trickster Odyssia — plaything of the gods — “ODY-C” gives new life to an old legend in a daring, profound way.