Matt Fraction’s ‘ODY-C’ bends genders in ancient Greece

I haven’t come across many people who can still find themselves in ancient texts like the Iliad or the Odyssey. It has become increasingly apparent that people are more interested in reading these tomes to prove they’re intellectuals, instead of reading to find themselves or discover they can relate to a hero who fought at Troy. I’ve spoken with a few veterans who have connections with characters like Achilles and Patroclus, their anguish and their attachment, but for the rest of us the text is far too unrelatable to civilian life.

Matt Fraction, of Sex Criminals and Marvel’s Hawkeye fame, is writing ODY-C, a gender-swapped space opera comic version of Homer’s Odyssey. Suddenly Odysseus is Odyssia, and instead of Poseidon tossing their ships on his waves, the god now throws these ships around on her breath through space.

So far there’s only five issues, which is not quite the 12,000 lines that make up the Odyssey, but the story still follows the one composed in the eighth century B.C. Zeus still killed his—ahem, her—father and, like her epic predecessor, doesn’t trust children. She trusts them so little that she removes all men from reality.

The story is what you expect. Odyssia and her soldiers have just defeated Troiia-VII and are now island-hopping home to distant Ithicaa. It’s mostly written in dactylic hexameter, which gives the whole book a rhythm and kind of ancient nobility. Even if the plot is weird and definitely takes some liberties with the original material, it stays damn close to the spirit of the thing in such a way that it can really speak to people now.

The Lotus-Eaters and the Cyclops are both there, as are Odyssia’s numerous epithets. Zeus even gives Persephone to Hades, which was in the Homeric Hymns (and isn’t technically Homer at all). All the characters are women. There are two men, and sometimes they become too much a central focus, but their only claim to fame is being men Zeus didn’t destroy.

In a crazed fit of sensory-deprived torture and inspiration, Persephone—or Promethene—creates an entirely new sex: the sebex. Essentially, people with a uterus who can accept and fertilize ovum from ciswomen. Zeus hates children and destroys men, and her child makes it so that children can be created without men. “Do you want to know the problem with children?” Zeus asks. “They just keep making more children.”

I’d argue that the comics aren’t populated with ciswomen either. Hera the all-mother, unlike Zeus the all-mother-father, is masculine in appearance, even if she is the most violence-averse and traditionally maternal character in the story. She has a beard, though, and even grooms and trims it sexily to get Zeus’ attention and distract her from her vile scheming. Which was also from the original text—the Iliad, not the Odyssey.

The art is inspired, too. Colors bleed, characters bleed and it’s all a gory rainbow from page to page. Cannibalism, murder and floating bodies mingle in Poseidon’s swirling vacuum. The gore is very ancient Greek, with divine ankles submerged in pools of blood. The whole text makes me very uncomfortable as a feminist, but in a good way that makes me think, stop and recalibrate.

I don’t want to sound too elitist here, but having read the original texts makes the comic all the more amazing, though I think it would still be awesome for someone who doesn’t know Homer very well.