I was pretty sure Christian Ward's artwork on Black Bolt was no fluke; it was too amazing for me not to love ODY-C. And I love Matt Fraction's work, particularly on Hawkeye, and I'd heard amazing things about this series. I also had it as part of a Humble Bundle, so this should have been a no-brainer. But I wanted to read it on Comixology and it was so inexpensive, I bought it again. Because I could also get volume two ridiculously cheap.
And man, I shouldn't have waited this long. I haven't read the Odyssey in a while, but the themes I remember are there: the pettiness of the gods, the long travel home, the weariness after war. Except it has sci-fi elements and all kinds of weird shit. Like total fuckery: a third sex, because Zues - a bearded goddess - got mad at children in general and got rid of men to stop all children, a leather bound man as a pet, and daddy-daughter incest - and killing ones daughters by the handful if they don't give you sons. (I'm not quite sure how some dudes survived, but I'm rolling with it for now. My mind has been so thoroughly fucked, it can't quite pick apart that question right now.)
Oh, also a multi-breasted she-Cyclops. Seduction and betrayal. Drugs. Violence. I feel like Fraction said 'fuck it, let's throw all that and a ship that's driven by dreams in there.' Like I said, a while since I read the Odyssey, but this lines up with what I remember, as far as the obstacles in Odysseus' way in the original story. (Odyssia, by the way, in this story.) What's really impressive is how bizarre, and science fiction-y, this gets without straying too far from the original structure. It blends the old and the new perfectly, creating something new and exciting from that fusion.
But to be honest, I came here because Ward. I know that Ward has said on Twitter that ODY-C landed him Black Bolt. I was going to read Black Bolt no matter who wrote, or illustrated it, but I didn't expect to fall in love as fast and hard as I did. Ward's art not only matched the story perfectly, but the story was amazing, thoughtful and thought provoking. It's the same here: Fraction gave Ward something clever and weird and funny, and Ward just made everything work around that structure. Knowing that an artist works well with one particular writer? That's really awesome. It's more awesome when they can work magic with more than one writer: it means that their next pairing will most likely be just as amazing. (So long as the story has meat on its bones. Fraction tells a much different story here than in Black Bolt - but they both give Ward a lot to work with, and he really works it hard.)
Black Bolt was, for the most part, muted. (Yes, that's going to come up as a comparison a lot in this review.) Both that aspect, and the highlights of color, made sense: it made it creepier, and lent a lot more to the more frightening aspect of that story. This is the exact opposite: neon colors that make me appreciate why 'psychedelic' comes up so often when this is described. And it's not just that art: the bizarre aspects feel just as trippy. But this is what I'm talking about when I say that Ward can work with different artists, and writers. The story calls for something, and Ward changes his style - somewhat, as some panels are more loose here than in Black Bolt - and palette to give the story what it needs rather than imposing his own will on the storyline. The fact that Fraction's writing and Ward's storyline match up so well also makes this feel incredibly whole; a disparate style of writing and art can make a comic, or graphic novel, feel incredibly fractured. I've only read two of Ward's illustrated works, but both times, he makes sure the story remains whole. (By the way, I am both placing the burden and the majority of the praise on Ward's shoulder for one reason; the writing usually comes first when making comics. The artist gets the script, and then illustrates. I know people who work in tandem, or give general ideas and script tightly around the art, but this is not the case most times. I'm assuming that this is how Ward works with both ODY-C and Black Bolt. Which means that it's usually up the artist to mold the art to the story, so given my pretty reasonable assumption, Fraction gets kudos for the brilliant story some cohesiveness and Ward gets kudos for both the brilliant art and most of the cohesiveness of the story. Fraction gets the credit for some because I suspect Ward is a ihyperintelligent artist who reacts best to smart storylines, and Fraction gave him a lot of smart storylines to work with!)
I could rave and rave about this. But instead, I'm going to keep this review relatively short. This is naughty in a lot of ways, this is trippy, and most of all? This is a lot of fun. I hope Fraction and Ward has as much fun creating this as I had reading it, because it really only seems fair. (And mabye likely? There's a lot of love put into this work and that makes me feel like they really had fun doing this series.)