With Ody-C #9 coming out in a few days, I decided to jot down a few thoughts on Ody-C #8.
When I wrote about Ody-C #6 a few months ago, I suggested that there was something off or untrustworthy about the storytelling. It felt so surreal and gimmicky, and the treatment of gender issues seemed… flip and baffling. Are we supposed to laugh at the dejected He in his gimp suit, because it read as silly, whether it was supposed to or not. Alternating his glossy little form with the stories of rape and death he was reading just made the whole issue into a confusing stew of uncomfortable images.
Ody-C #8 is a story within a story again, but it’s easy to follow its one faithful thread all the way through. We learn about these blood-thirsty brother kings and how they perform the ritual rape and slaughter of virgins. The country’s young people were being raised up like livestock to fulfill this bloodlust. Fraction and Ward are straightforward about showing that the victims of this are both male and female. They convey that men and boys are rape victims too without getting cute about gender-bending and gender roles.
Ward illustrates the humanity of the victims clearly — from the fear on their faces, to the way one woman reaches down to help the person behind her who has fallen. When one of them actually tries to run, the furious reds and pinks are replaced with the cool blues of night time and the coldness of both the prey’s fear and the predators’ focus.
Her vivid, fearful face is contrasted with the expressionless, featureless faces of the men who are just watching, from lighted windows above. These aren’t even the men who are going to rape and kill her. They’re just the ones watching and doing nothing.
But what this issue does next is close this circle of humanity. The brother-kings have turned into deranged, power-hungry killers and they have created an entire rape culture that the men are enmeshed in as well as the adolescents victims of both sexes. Because this girl happened to be descended from a god, the men are haunted by what they have done. Now Ward draws their faces not as animals but as humans.
One man is shown lying awake next to a woman, like a normal man and wife. This perfectly brings home the point that rapists are normal people, normal husbands and fathers and boyfriends. And rape culture is perpetuated by an even wider circle of completely normal people. In these moments, Fraction’s high-flying prose and Ward’s fantastical art both circle down to earth. The quietness is more powerful than the screaming red slaughter scenes that I didn’t want to include here (though of course they are beautiful too, because: Christian Ward).
The prose and the illustrations both lift off again as we see the men obsessively digging up the girls’ bones, which have multiplied to become an infinite number of bones. They are compelled to build towers and walls out of the bones — monuments to rape that also serve as a prison that the men can never leave and never stop building.
This is the hardest-hitting comic book treatment of rape that I’ve seen, including in more overtly feminist series like Bitch Planet. It feels unstintingly brave and, frankly, magnificent.