Enough with zombies and viral diseases, Jonathan Hill’s dystopian graphic novel ‘Odessa’ serves up the classic ‘find your estranged parent’ story in a post-apocalyptic world without some of the best-loved tropes of the genre. The creator does go for mythical monsters and cannibals though. So well, in a lot of ways ‘Odessa’ isn’t all that different and seems to be a play on the classic Odyssey… since the protagonist does embark on quite an adventurous and dangerous journey.

Plot overview – Seventeen-year-old Vietnamese American Ginny decides to leave home to find her estranged mother who she hasn’t seen since the world almost ended after a massive earthquake. Almost. So, in the America Ginny lives in, the old world’s social order doesn’t exist anymore, most people scavenge to survive and territorial gang-wars are rife everywhere. Despite several warnings of fates worse than death, Ginny packs a bag and heads into the unknown… little does she know her two younger brothers are following her too. It’s going to be heck off a trail.

Interestingly, the panels in ‘Odessa’ are washed in a peachy pink tone, a color some of us tend to associate with lighter/sweeter themes in life, like a breezy romance… not ‘young teen with a death-wish on a suicide mission’. But despite the peach shade, the artwork by Jonathan Hill is simple and rough, it may not look very polished but blends well with the dystopian theme. Hill’s illustrations do a fantastic job with facial expressions, every little mood change and emotion of a given character is captured in his strokes. It’s worth nothing that Ginny looks perpetually pissed.

The protagonist is a typical ‘angry young teen’, who despite having a safe life with a caring father and two brothers, decides to re-connect with a mother who left them behind. Ginny is not the most intelligent, or even the most likable character in the graphic novel. Her brothers Wes and Harry are a lot more kooky and colorful, character-wise and some more page space for the boys would’ve been more fun. There’s a very small romantic sub-plot, which might seem either far-fetched or super-cute, depending on the kind of romantic you are.

There isn’t a lot of character development or even enough strife given the dystopian theme, Ginny and team get to walk away through a lot of things with unbelievable ease. All the ‘oh it’s too dangerous out there’ spiel at the beginning of the story makes the hope for some nail-biting sinister stuff, but we don’t quite get anything of the sort. Towards the climax, things do get exciting, so there’s some solace in that fact. But before you invest your time and money in getting the graphic novel, all you should know is that ‘Odessa’ ends in a cliffhanger, and a part two is not out yet (as of September 2022).

It’s a 3/5 from me.

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Ep 79 – Five Graphic Novel Adaptations Worth Checking Out