(Titan Comics, 2014)
Odyssey Volume 1: History Lesson
Script – Dave Elliott
Line Art – Garrie Gastonny and Toby Cypress
Additional Inks – Maralti Firmansyah
Color – Sakti Yuwono
Lettering – Imam E. Wibowo
First impressions are key. It’s been drilled into our heads for years and years, from job interviews to meeting members of the opposite sex. Always act your best, always look your best, you don’t know what’s coming round the bend.
When reading a new comic, as with meeting new people, it’s sometimes hard to get past that first impression. There must be a combination of story and time that gets you through to the next level. Every person you meet has his or her own series of tragedies and joys that have shaped who he or she is.
When I first picked up Odyssey Volume 1 by Dave Elliott (Weirding Willows), I remember thinking, I know this isn’t Captain America, but it kinda looks like Cap. This character has pervaded the American and comic culture so pervasively that any time you put a hero in red, white, and blue you can’t help but draw a parallel to Steve Rogers.
Let me quell your fears, if you have any. This is not Captain America.
There are certainly ties to that icon. The government created him during World War II. His aging has slowed down if not completely stopped since then. But the story of Blazing Glory (our Cap avatar) is much deeper than that.
Odyssey follows Blazing Glory throughout the years through American conflict at home and abroad, told in flashback to a dying war buddy. The story evolves very organically. The beginning notes tell how Elliott was inspired and how he came to write this story. This hero was created through a religion instead of science. What is the endgame of a deity that puts a champion in the hands of mortals? Who really is in charge?
Amidst all of the super heroism, we find that Blazing Glory is, at best, losing whatever sense of patriotism that once drove him. There is doubt introduced into his sphere, and those doubts are enough to topple whatever belief structure once held him in check. He finds himself asking the hard questions, whom am I fighting for and why? Elliott drops a wonderful phrase on us through Glory.
“We sign up to do our duty for God and Country, yet we never question what it is we are asked to do. It is our right and our duty to question. And no man should lay down his life if he doesn’t truly know and believe that what he is fighting for is just.” Isn’t this the kind of morality we want our heroes displaying? I would hope the answer is yes. But Elliott is showing us that most people (especially those in power) would rather have a drone that does what it is told.
Odyssey tracks the loss of faith in a system that was once paramount to the survival of the world, through the conflicts in Vietnam and Korea to the Occupy Movement. There are shadowy fingers at work where the public can’t see, and Blazing Glory quickly finds that he has been shut out of the system he helped to protect. There is more than a little comparison here to the powers-that-be of present day America.
Garrie Gastonny (Caliber, Lady Death) and Toby Cypress (White Suits, Blue Estate) provide line art for this book, and their contrasting styles are fantastic. Gastonny has a more fluid style whereas Cypress uses sharper angles and exaggerated form, but they work well together, helping to show the change in time and era through the art.
Taken at first glance Odyssey could be seen as a Cap knock-off. Through ingenious storytelling, heartfelt moments mixed with tragedy, and the gut-punch of lost faith, Dave Elliott makes sure that you won’t forget Blazing Glory.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.