ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Odessa’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ginny and her brothers stand on top of a hill overlooking a sunken bridge.

Odessa is a post-apocalyptic science fiction story published by Oni Press. Odessa is written and illustrated by Jonathan Hill with art assistance by Xan Drake and editing by Robin Herrara.  Eight years ago the West Coast experienced a massive earthquake that tore apart the landscape and tore apart people’s lives. Shortly after the earthquake, Virginia ‘Ginny’ Crane’s mother disappeared leaving behind her husband and three young children. Eight years later, Ginny turns 18, receiving a birthday gift that changes her life even more. 

Her long-absent mother has sent her a letter, a necklace, and an old photo. With proof that their mother is alive, Ginny and her brothers Wes and Harry, embark on a journey to find their mother and bring her home. And maybe, they will be able to repair some of their shattered lives.

After their mother’s disappeared Ginny and Wes had to grow up too fast. Ginny had to fill the role her mother left,  raising her brothers and herself. Wes had to act like the “man of the house” while their father was out scavenging and trading. The only one who still acts like the child they are is Harry, who was born shortly after the earthquake. 

The dialogue between the siblings reflects this difference in maturity. While Ginny and Wes do their best to act like adults, there are moments where their true ages shine through. There are petty arguments and fights. There are moments when everyone needs to work together but they can’t stop arguing. Hill is constantly reminding the reader that Odessa follows children coming of age after the end of the world. 

Hill excels at creating characters that feel real and authentic. Many times post-apocalyptic stories have characters that are almost superhero levels of badass, but that’s not Ginny. Ginny is a scared, vulnerable girl trying her best to be brave for her family. And Hill allows her to be that without acting like this is a character flaw.

Wes is balancing caring deeply for his family with his resentment of Harry. Harry is still a child with boundless enthusiasm and optimism. Because of Wes and Ginny, Harry gets to have a childhood. 

The family dynamic is one of the best parts of Odessa. It’s equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. The siblings care so deeply for each other but that means the stakes are incredibly high in such a dangerous world. There’s gangs, mutants, and people that would rather stab you than help you. 

For all of the action moments and the heartfelt family scenes, the plot does start to drag a bit in the middle. Ginny and her brothers spend a lot of time sitting around and waiting for the next clue to their mother. Fortunately, this is only a small portion of the book and in the last few chapters the action, and angst, are almost nonstop.

The art in Odessa has a very distinct and unique look. Hill uses only shades of pink, black, and white throughout the entire book, and his linework has a sketchy feel to it. It takes a few panels to adjust to the limited color palette, at times characters are only distinguishable from the background by the strong outlines, but once adjusted the art style feels like the only logical choice for this book. The warm colors make the tone of the book feel calm, almost safe, even when scenes get intense and the characters are far from safe. Most of the action scenes are not graphic but there is a trigger warning for a few panels at the beginning of chapter dead bodies that have been hung. It’s possible to skip this page and not miss anything from the plot. 

With its very family-focused plot, Odessa is a unique take on the post-apocalyptic science-fiction genre. There’s not a journey to save the world, the world has already been destroyed. There’s no hidden rebellion looking for their “chosen one” destined to overthrow a tyrannical ruler. It’s just a family trying to put themselves back together while dealing with their new dangerous reality. Because Odessa isn’t a high stakes “the fate of the world is in their hands” story, it really stands out. 

There are a lot of questions left unanswered at the end of Odessa, but this is only part one of this story. (As of the writing of this review the release date of the second book has not been announced). 

Odessa will be available on November 10th wherever books are sold.

Odessa
3.5

TL;DR

There are a lot of questions left unanswered at the end of Odessa, but this is only part one of this story. (As of the writing of this review the release date of the second book has not been announced).