ODY-C #4

Story by
Art by
Christian Ward
Colors by
Dee Cunniffe, Christian Ward
Letters by
Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by
Image Comics

Odyssia and her crew escape the Cyclops in "ODY-C" #4, but it's a maneuver of bones rather than brains. Matt Fraction and Christian Ward trade the trickery of their classical inspiration for the logic of brutality, with a violent issue full of gushing, engorged psychedelia. Featuring weapons cut from corpses and bloody, bursting mutilations, "ODY-C" #4 is as disturbing as it is mind-bending. The stiltedness of the script still holds things up, but "ODY-C" gets smoother and more rhythmic with every issue. This series is just about to hit its stride.

Christian Ward and flatter Dee Cunniffe unfurl a truly distinctive aesthetic in "ODY-C." They use bright colors and lavish, swirling linework to create an absolutely unfathomable geography; hyperspace in this series is as confusing and infinite as the "wine-dark sea." Even the mythic characters in this world never look firmly tethered to physical space, whether it's Poseidon's body about to dissolve or the Cyclops swollen like a pustule about to burst. The result is trippy and frightening, and the imagination at play is really quite astounding.

Fraction has one heck of an ear for pacing, but his ear for pseudo-Homeric is still a bit stilted. The recreation of dactylic hexameter isn't always working, though the rhythms get stronger and more discernible with every issue. The scenes with the gods still feel noticeably livelier -- and perhaps there's something thematic to that, the grimness of being a mortal contrasting the extravagant caprice of the gods -- but it doesn't always read as intentional.

That said, the series' thematic plays with its source material are much more fruitful. Though she's called "wily" and "clever," this Odyssia doesn't use sneaking to worm her way out of the Cyclops' lair. Her ingenuity is more direct and gory. As in previous issues, "ODY-C" #4 draws the brutality of the original myth to the fore, emphasizing and enhancing it. "Clever" in this context means "smart enough to survive."

Chris Eliopoulos does "ODY-C" a huge service with his graceful, clarifying lettering. In order to hit his rhyme scheme, Fraction often structures his script so that it isn't clear who's speaking. Eliopoulos make the quote attributions for him, using color to assign the dialogue to different characters. Prima's words are mauve; Odyssia's words appear in seafoam green. This is such a small touch, but it's crucial to making things understandable. Eliopoulos also quietly mimics the colors from the panels themselves, creating a seamless look and feel.

On their own, either Fraction's writing or Ward's artwork would be easy to enjoy, but together they often require a bit of deciphering from the reader. Now, there's plenty of value in art that makes you work, but it does detract from the atmospheric quality of Ward's spacescapes and character designs. When I want to revel in an atmosphere, I want to revel, not necessarily take a break to decipher the action.

"ODY-C" builds better on its strengths every month. The script comes closer and closer to the rhythmic quality of verse, and the art goes deeper and deeper into this trippy vision of the universe. It's wonderful to see a book grow this way, and I can't wait for issue #5.

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