ODY-C, Vol. 1: Off to Far Ithicaa

Matt Fraction,story; Christian Ward, art & colors

Image Comics

A sci-fi retelling of the Odyssey, with almost every element of the original story turned on its head. In this version the cast is virtually all women--gods and humans alike--due to Zeus's edict abolishing all men. She did this because of succession issues (men are trouble), which is explained during the course of this first arc. But initially the reader is just thrown into a situation where the interstellar war is over, Odyssia is finally heading home, and the gods have decided to give her a hard time. The title ODY-C is the name of her spaceship, and Ithicaa is a planet rather than an island.

Surprising how well the sea voyages translate to interstellar voyages--Fraction even has Poseidon in the same role. Bodies of water are her domain, but so is deep space. After a brief skirmish, the crew encounters the Cyclops, an epic battle which many of the crew do not survive. Damage to the ship leads them to Aeolus, a Titan with a special gift for technology. He's also one of the few men left in the world. He installs a new drive in the ODY-C, and when Odyssia leaves him behind (instead of fulfilling the bargain she made with him), she finds herself with a fast ship--but one that behaves very differently.

This is a striking book visually. Ward uses an exaggerated, expressionistic style--the crew is depicted as diverse, normal looking women, but the gods (especially Zeus) and creatures like the Cyclops are wildly inventive. They tend to have a dissipated, obese look, with exaggerated bulges and curves. And the colors! It's a lurid, psychedelic palette: even the dark scenes employ unusual color choices. Fraction's writing is harder to get at first. It's an odd combination of an imitation of epic poetry with cheeky, modern language. I'm not sure it entirely succeeds, but the story is involving enough to revisit.

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Having had a good look at some translations of Homer's poem, it appears that Fraction makes reference to the way the epic is traditionally presented, but not literally. There is no direct reference to the 24 Books (despite what Fraction said his plan was)--at least not in anything like the original order. While this story arc has an epigram like that used in the First Book, it covers far more story than that. The encounter with the Cyclops occurs in the third issue here, but was Book Nine in the poem. And Fraction numbers what I guess could be considered stanzas in his script, while the poem uses line numbers. 

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