A word in advance: Comixology originally released this issue with eleven pages missing, including that entire gatefold, but they’ve since updated. If you’re like me, you may not have noticed anything was gone until today (I figured the gatefold must be a print exclusive thing), so you should go get on that- you’ll miss a lot, including background context and the ending.
Before I should start I need to tell a story. Nearly a year ago, discussing the concept of this book with a friend, we both found we were worried about the “genderflipped” part of the concept. Gender swapping narratives, for all potential benefits, tend to simplify things in such a sweeping matter that they seem to not only forget transgender and non-binary people exist in general but often their spirit stomps on those people as well. My friend took a plunge and sent Matt Fraction a message about this- specifically asking if there were any non-binary characters in general. Here was Fraction’s response:
hey, that is a really great note. i suppose i should say it’s not exactly a strict swapping, but the idea of voiding the binary entirely honestly hadn’t occurred to me (the proper writing hasn’t started so, y’know, fucking nothing has really occurred to me yet). that said, thank you for occurring this at me? to me? thanks. yes. there will be. and that’s because of you. i’d like to believe i’d have considered it once the typing started but i’d also like to believe that i am and have always been a sophisticated, evolved, and empathetic person with understanding and consideration for all people everywhere.
This, alas, is not the case, and everything is a process of growing. Right? Right.
so thank you. yes.
That’s a large part of why I’ve been excited for ODY-C. Odyssey in space, good; Odyssey in space starring almost completely ladies and non-binary folk, better.
On that note, ODY-C is defined by womanhood, not just in the vast majority of its cast but in every bit of its design, right down to the ship ODY-C itself, where the chamber by which Odyssia controls it is literally referred to as a womb. Men in ODY-C are nearly nonexistent, to the point where the only one we meet is simply named “He”. He also happens to be carted around like a dog on a leash by Ene (his wife, our Menelaus), and plenty of metaphors can surely be wrought from any realizations that He is ODY-C‘s answer to Helen of Troy. In making Helen an object that needed to be taken back, the original Iliad was inherently rooted in misogyny; here in ODY-C, things can be made a bit more obvious.
Speaking of Ene, as well as her and Odyssia’s fellow soldier Gamem (Agamemnon, whose fate makes me dread Ganem’s safety), the world of ODY-C has been stretched to levels that make it seem as mythological and full as the original Greek story. Never is this more evident than the pull out map that opens the book, explaining everything from the origin of the sebex (the intersex gender that Penelope and Odyssia’s other lover Ero identify with) to Poseidon’s anger with Odyssia to the somewhat different origins of this story’s great war left behind. To some extent, this is confusing and somewhat staggering, and I am eager to see how much in that timeline is revisited in flashbacks, but at the same time, it’s fitting for such a tale with an epic scope. Simply retelling Odyssey is not enough here, something Fraction seems to be well aware of, and it makes sense that the book would have taken time to go from announcement to release with all the thought put into just this issue.
Just as much can be said about the work of Christian Ward, who makes ODY-C feel as magical as it is meant to be. Despite the “in space!” part of the initial concept, ODY-C is just as much fantasy as it is science fiction; the Pantheon here are still gods in the literal sense of the world, though Poseidon rules over the seas instead of the skies. Ward is perfect for this, portraying the journey of the ODY-C’s crew as colorful and whimsical while not ignoring the fact that they are in the cold grip of space. He also brings appropriate carnage to the book’s warfare, portraying women dangling from trees and disemboweled with gusto, though the fight scene near the end of the issue is a bit messy (but perhaps that is the point). But nothing in this issue is better than how Ward draws the women who inhabit this book, and the feelings they have after years of fighting. The issue’s most effective scene owes itself to Ward’s art: it’s when Ero asks Odyssia what her child Telem, who she hasn’t seen in a decade, was “like in her soul”, and Odyssia’s face contorts in pain and confusion and longing over four panels.
Ward does an amazing job conveying Odyssia throughout this issue; conveying her brutality as a fighter, her power as a leader, and her weariness after so long away from peace (and her secret hope to return to battle) excellently. She’s not a conventional lead; she’s older, tired, already married and finished with war. Thanks to Ward, the reader can still be convinced that Odyssia is worth following, and her story- and the stories of the people around her- are interesting enough to read on for, even if they’ve read the Odyssey already.
- It kind of sucks that there’s only two pages of the Pantheon in this issue, because they look amazing. Poseidon! Dang!
- I really enjoyed how we get a lot of the names of Odyssia’s minor crew. It makes the world feel more developed, and it’ll probably make their inevitable(?) deaths hurt more.
- The way the ship works- through willpower- is amazingly cool, though I wonder what the subtext of that process, and of poor Xylot being thrown out just for a bit of doubt, is meant to say.
- I wonder how much of Telem we’ll see this early in the book, as the first four books of the original Odyssey were mostly about Telemachus rather than Odysseus (they’re called the Telemachy, after all)