Matt Fraction and Christian Ward created a strange and wonderful thing with ODY-C, and for the second volume, ODY-C, Vol. 2: Sons of the Wolf, it seems they’ve listened to their readers and addressed the biggest (and my only) complaint. “Sons of the Wolf” has a much stronger, clearer storyline and the writing is worlds easier to follow than “Off to Far Ithicaa.” The art is still gorgeously psychedelic and makes the most of the mythological space opera premise.
Even though ODY-C is based on the Odyssey and previously featured the gender-swapped heroine Odyssia, “Sons of the Wolf” takes a different approach and follows He of Troiia, the man whose face launched a thousand ships, and Ene, his beloved. Both have come to the world Q’af, a planet surrounded by a giant, god-cursed storm that prevents anyone from leaving – and a planet full of men. In a universe where gods have banished the male sex from existence, this is an exceptional planet indeed. I appreciate the decision to focus on new characters. It gives their galaxy a sense of space and population – there exist other stories in Greek mythology than Odysseus’s, and other places than Troy and Greece, so it’s exciting to see that reflected in this world, too.
Ene and He, though lovers, leave each other early in the book, and subsequent chapters follow their separate journeys as Ene tries to leave Q’af while He struggles to find meaning in his new freedom. He’s story is heavily privileged, given much more page time and depth than Ene’s journey, which at times feels like an afterthought. It’s understandable – He’s journey is one of freedom, but also one of loss (of the life he had with Ene, of his status as the only eligible man in a world of women), while Ene’s is a straightforward (relatively speaking) adventure.
As always, the book does smart work with its gender-swapping premise; He’s story as sexual object and victim is one typically reserved for women, but when given to a man whose very name forces you to think of man-ness (and notice that in typical all-capitals comic fonts, there is no distinction between specific He and generic ‘he’), it takes on a sense of troubling wrong-ness. Narrative roles that no longer shock me (but should) when given to women take on a sudden horror when cast with a man, and I appreciated that fresh take. In general, the decision to focus on the journeys of these two characters emphasized growth of and empathy for the characters. It was hard to break through the formality of the writing, the chaos, and the mythological tone of the first volume, but the slower, more focused story of He and Ene allows the reader to invest in He in a way I could never invest in Odyssia.
The choice to have those two strong arcs form the backbone of this volume was a smart one for Fraction and Ward. The first volume felt scattered, and jumping from quest to quest and setting to setting added to the confusion of the wild art and dense writing. By slightly pulling back on the chaotic art and writing and showing off that firmer structure, “Sons of the Wolf” was a more rewarding read. It also allowed them to play with the narrative structure, once those storylines were established. There are several frame stories within the book that give the reader some history and mythology of Q’af, and in one of the later chapters it becomes apparent that the stories of He and Ene are narrated by a third party. The story still has the complexity promised in the first volume, but is much less confusing. Fraction’s writing shines in the translation of ancient myth to ‘60s-inspired ultra-modern space opera.
ODY-C might have my favorite art of any comic currently running. Every page is vibrant, and surprising, and original. I want to plaster my walls entirely with pages from this series. There is a series of pages in this volume where there are no traditional panels and no dialogue – just a checkerboard of close-ups, not necessarily sequential, not explicitly connected to any neighboring images, that together depict a scene of traumatic betrayal and the horrifying violence that follows. It’s a powerful sequence that gets its power from restraint, from what it doesn’t show and how strictly the chaos is confined. Ward has done many gorgeous layouts over these two volumes, but this one exemplifies the difference between “Off to Far Ithicaa” and “Sons of the Wolf.” It’s visibly structured, deliberately restrained, but still incredibly effective and impactful. That’s not to say there aren’t crazy wonderful tumultuous two-page spreads in “Sons of the Wolf,” because there certainly are, and they are certainly gorgeous.
Overall, this is as good or better than the first volume in every way. Even if you were on the fence after the first one, I recommend you pick up ODY-C: Vol. 2: Sons of The Wolf and try again.
- The story and writing are much more straightforward and easy to follow than the first volume without losing the challenging complexity that makes the book rewarding
- Following a different set of characters makes the world feel wider and more full
- The art continues to be magnificent
- If you’re looking for more of Odyssia’s story or want more of the Olympian gods/goddesses, you might be disappointed
- There are still some confusing moments in the plot