The word “epic” in reference to comic books is redundant, but it’s the classical sense of the word that carries through in Kevin Grevioux’s Odyssey of the Amazons #1. With narration written on scrolls and a visit by the Fates, this is a story of the early days of the Amazon at a time when differences of opinion exist on what the Amazon should be.
On the one hand, they’re the “sisterhood of blood and shield,” with the issue opening on a large battle where spears are thrust across panels and artist, Ryan Benjamin, has warrior women leaping off the page in exhilarating fashion. On the other hand, during her speech after their victory, general Hessia’s first matter of business is to ensure that their allies, the Zhu’khara people, are clear that, “the Amazon way will forever be one of peace.” Somehow stated right after combat, this declaration feels empty, and Hessia’s need to clarify defensive.
These contradictions play perfectly into the oral tradition that permeates throughout the story and has been a signature of epic literature since Beowulf and Homer. Unlike stories written down, storytelling has no memorized script. It’s why games like whisper down the lane work, with each passing telling bringing variations in word choice and drastically different accounts. Aminata, for example, remembers Cymone’s tale of Queen Hippolyta’s match against Heracles, “very differently” but all of these iterations are allowed to exist at once.
Coexistence works less well within a sisterhood that’s having an identity crisis. There is never a good time for internal strife but in the middle of a recruitment drive that has kept them away from their home, Themyscira, for five years, discord is dangerous. Attempting to expand their ranks when the group is so unstable, characters are constantly grouping off to have private conversations and it’s only a matter of time before divisions become public. Ophelia, the Amazon’s master artisan, completes two projects over the course of this issue. The one is a statue of friendship. The other’s a painting of war.
Working with a large cast, the issue starts early to establish personalities, with the initial battle acting almost as a roll call of one shot panel introductions. The name dropping feels realistic when miscommunication could be deadly and the art quickly takes over from there—Demetria’s wide armed leap reflecting the relish with which she joins the melee, and hair styles and accessories expressing the Amazon’s new global diversity.
This is what Hessia was striving for back when they started out on their mission. Living on a secluded island is isolating and adding new, immortal voices to their group would help them from losing touch with the outside world. And maybe if Hessia had planned their return trip home sooner, the mission would’ve been better received, but by the time some of their warriors get kidnapped by Norse giants (a Sherlock Holmes twist involving missing foot prints already promising intrigue ahead) the state of morale has some questioning whether a rescue attempt should be taken.
Making a notably unceremonious departure from their new allies, the Zhu’khara, the ending of the issue is a brutal bombardment of nature and enemy attack. While some of the deaths lose emotional impact, by never being sure who is missing or absent, and the occasional choice to use inked silhouette, the costs of travel are already astronomical. The Southron Amazon have made it North, but will they survive the visit?