Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s ODY-C is now in stores, a grand undertaking that is unlike anything else you have ever read and has left my mind reeling for days.
Fraction is taking on something very bold with this one, writing in Homer’s six-syllable dactylic hexameter which, I’ll admit, took some time to adjust to. This style of writing gives his adaptation of The Odyssey the grand feel warranted by adapting such a work, and makes this comic truly unlike anything else I have ever read. Fraction is taking The Odyssey to places no one has ever imagined in this comic and he is going to blow minds while doing it. I am going to say “epic” a lot in this review because that is the overwhelming feeling that comes from this comic as the scope of the story Fraction and Ward are telling is gigantic. This is no minimalist interpretation. These two are going for broke and throwing all their chips into the pot, doing something with the medium in ODY-C that is truly unique and exceptional.
This comic feels like something that is to be experienced more so than understood or even enjoyed. ODY-C #1 features storytelling choices that are so bold you can’t help but feel like this is the kind of comic that is driving the medium forward into uncharted territory. Due to this fact alone there is excitement that surrounds this book and everyone jokes about reading some Grant Morrison comics and saying “well, I didn’t understand it, but I’ll be back for more” – prepare yourself to hear this being said about ODY-C for a long time. This is, truly, a piece of art and while interpretations of ODY-C will differ, the artistic merit of what is in readers hands cannot be disputed. Fraction and Ward are pushing the boundaries of what readers are used to seeing in comics here and I applaud them for that.
The choice to gender-swap most of the major roles in The Odyssey is fantastic and makes this feel like a completely new story. I applaud Fraction and Ward for throwing a gigantic middle finger in the air toward preconceived gender roles with this one and giving comics some more strong female characters. It is blatantly obvious throughout the entire issue that the women within are smart, powerful and multi-faceted. There are no stereotypes to be found in this bold new world they are building and that is refreshing.
Fraction’s script reads like it is an ancient Greek text, for better and worse. The tone is booming and powerful due to the style he is writing in, but it is just as confusing as the first time you tried to make sense of a Greek tale. This cast is huge and we aren’t hand fed many details, so ODY-C #1 does feel like being thrown into the deep end of the most bizarre pool you’ve ever seen and I heartily caution you against reading this one unless you are mentally prepared for it. ODY-C #1 is dense and a large undertaking, so prepare yourselves accordingly. I’ll admit the six-syllable dactylic hexameter was off-putting at first, but in subsequent readings it has grown on me. There are times that this style of writing causes the text and artwork to feel separated, like Ward is adapting an existing story for comics rather than it being a marriage of text and visuals to create a cohesive story, but it does not doom the issue and adds to the feeling of this being a take on a fabled legend of old. Ward’s artwork is so grand and engrossing that, at times, the narrative feels almost irrelevant because what is happening on the page grabs focus and does not let go.
Ward’s artwork is so bold and well, insane, that I almost don’t know where to start discussing it. This is some of the wildest artwork I have seen in comics in 2014 and his work takes Fraction’s retelling of The Odyssey and pumps it full of psychedelic drugs. This review is based off of a digital copy, so the weight of the 8 page spread was not as heavy for me, but the bold colour choices in the artwork of said spread is amazing. In some ways, Ward’s use of colour eclipses his pencil work, the bright splashes grabbing the eye and leading to some moments where I looked at the page slack-jawed and stunned. This is the kind of work that wins awards and is spoken of in hushed, reverent tones for years to come and the artwork is worth the price of admission alone.
ODY-C #1 is not for everyone, but for the comic fan who enjoys experimentation with the medium and bold storytelling choices – you need to get this and dive in head first. ODY-C #1 is a comic book experience that is innovative and bold and while I’m not sure it hit the bullseye for my tastes after a few readings, I respect what they are attempting to accomplish with this. This is no small undertaking and certainly not a typical comic book story, and I mean that in a good way. ODY-C #1 will blow minds and I definitely recommend people give it a shot to experience it for themselves.
The Verdict: 8.5/10