At times ODY-C is outrageous and borderline nonsensical, but I mean that in the best possible way. This trippy and bizarre take on Homer’s Odyssey is one of the most memorable comics of 2015. Written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Christian Ward, it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting to read.
Before we get into the review fully I have to elaborate a bit more on what ODY-C actually is. ODY-C takes Homer’s Odyssey, which has been parodied and re-told countless times in modern media, and spins it off in a new direction by catapulting it into a fantastic sci-fi setting. Furthermore characters are gender-flipped with Odysseus now Odyssia, captain of the ODY-C spaceship.
That itself would be enough to make this comic a compelling premise but here the entire thing is presented in a colourful and psychedelic style with stunning visuals. It’s perhaps a cliché to say that the visuals match the story, but here the two are inseparable. Without Ward’s art, ODY-C would be an entirely different comic and nowhere near as captivating.
If you’re unfamiliar with the reputation of the creative team I could understand being worried that the story could be a boilerplate, sexualised version of the Odyssey, but those concerns can be jettisoned. Throughout the story the swapped gender of the cast begins to play a larger role as themes on gender and sexuality are explored in trippy yet gorgeous pages. Meanwhile Odyssia, her soldiers and the Gods are all depicted with impressive diversity in terms of both race and body type.
If you’re not familiar with the Odyssey, this comic is going to be a tough read. There’s very little exposition to speak of and the story can be difficult to follow, probably not shocking considering the tale is over two-thousand years old after all. However for those who know the story, ODY-C offers a unique and captivating take of Odyssia’s voyage home after her military victory.
The story’s key moments are all here and realised in a vivid and fantastically warped manner. For example, Odyssia‘s encounter with the Cyclops has been adapted from the original, a well known and iconic portion of the story, in a wickedly clever manner that plays with the gender-swapped nature of the story to full effect. Furthermore the artwork on this section is perhaps the strongest in the entire volume with brilliantly disgusting renditions of the Cyclops’ violent and gluttonous nature. The whole encounter is positively frightening and a great example of how the team have taken an encounter that’s embedded in pop culture and still managed to make it feel fresh and unique.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle to follow the comic at times. Dialogue is kept to a minimum and even the narration is often delivered in a dramatic mimic of Homer’s originally complicated description. It’s perhaps telling then that even at these times I didn’t feel excluded from the comic by design, but more that I needed to read closer and savour the plot more. This is certainly a comic that benefits from a re-read with careful attention to detail. As wild and exuberant as ODY-C feels, it never comes across as lazy, everything feels carefully plotted to get onto the page exactly the result they wanted.
Honestly ODY-C is a comic that’s not going to be for everyone. If you just want a more traditional and straightforward tale, that simplifies and modernises the original story, then I’m afraid this might not be for you. Instead ODY-C is an eclectic and vibrant package that uses the Odyssey to create a rare comic that stands alone with little else to compare it to. If it sounds like your sort of thing, it’s certainly worth a go, just be prepared for something quite different.