ODY-C has so much promise: a stunning cover, a beautiful, enormous opening fold-out, and the name of probably one of the best modern comic book and graphic novel writers attached to it.
Branded as an adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey set in space with genders of major characters swapped or transformed, ODY-C has a lot of flash, bang, and fury…….with very little in return.
Issue one introduces Odyssia, the war monger and queen warrior on her ship, the ODY-C, trying to return home. Mental unity of its female fuel operators power ODY-C, but as with most Greek myths and tragedies, the ship operates under the capriciousness of the universe’s gods and goddesses. In the world of ODY-C, women hold all of the power and exist as the dominant population while the few men left are relegated to facile companions of the women of highest ranking.
To accompany the narrative, ODY-C has some phenomenal artwork. The colors are vibrant and rich; the drawings are gorgeously layered and textured; the characters are amazingly larger than life. Even more than the Matt Fraction name, Christian Ward’s stunning illustrations lured me into purchasing the first issue of ODY-C.
Sadly, all of the grandiose art has been wasted on this poorly recycled mythology under the guise of female empowerment. Homer’s The Odyssey has been adapted for modern times for decades. Ranging from Walter Hill’s The Warriors and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the fundamental framework of The Odyssey has never left popular culture. Consequently, yet another version of the tale in space (even with the gender changes) is superfluous.
Furthermore, what infuriates me the most about this series is its heavy-handed, irresponsible messages about female empowerment. In various press interviews, Fraction claims that he wants to create a huge adventure with superheroes that his daughter can look up to. However, this goal has led to a lackluster product with nothing insightful or new to say about women rising above. For example, ODY-C runs into trouble when one of its mental fuel-sources stops believing in the battles that Odyssia continuously enters, disconnecting the unity amongst the other “sisters” steering the ship. When this callow metaphor appears, it’s clumsily handled and manipulative, purely entered to achieve the gender politic rather than adding any narrative value to ODY-C, and these politically overwhelming interruptions render this series down to a frivolous piece of female empowerment propaganda.
By reversing genders in ODY-C, Fraction fails most to understand the historical context of the original Homer narrative, and in turn by using the same one, creates a narrative that is fundamentally gender digressive. The Odyssey was written in an era where patriarchy reigned. By using the same story and reversing characters’ genders, ODY-C’s core narrative is still fundamentally male-centric because none of the characters actually capture the experience of being a woman. Essential to the experience of being a woman is interacting with men in a man’s world, and this defining relationship between men and women is entirely missing from ODY-C. A female superhero is not a woman if she is simply a man whose exterior has a female form.
As a result of merely the physical gender replacement, Odyssia and all of the other powerful women in the world of ODY-C are completely unrelatable. They do not motivate me to rise above. If anything, they tell me that a woman-centric world is what I should try to achieve, which is a dangerous message to send out because it will further exacerbate gender strains already embedded in today’s society.
If Fraction really wanted a superhero for his daughter and for the young women of the world, he should have rooted the female protagonists in a place with realistic gender barriers. A new mythology should have been in his mind, one based in a current patriarchal world and one able to fully capture how a woman, consequently, must navigate it. ODY-C is perfect for male readers who think that they are gender progressive and for female readers who fantasize about a world that is run by women. Both of those audiences are problematic and completely misinterpret the realistic female experience and the methods by which women must figure out how thrive in a society where many standards and practices work against us. If I want to see women rising above and succeeding under dire situations (i.e. the ones who truly warrant my respect and admiration), I’ll watch The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Winter’s Bone, or Jackie Brown instead.