Odessa by Jonathan Hill
Published by Oni Press on November 3rd, 2020
Genres: Graphic Novel, Post-Apocalyptic
“And that’s how the world ended.”
*ARC received by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I was scrolling through Netgalley the other day and happened to stumble upon this graphic novel. When I find it hard to concentrate on reading, I gravitate toward graphic novels. And this was a fairly quick read that made me feel accomplished after spending the whole weekend playing Animal Crossing.
In Odessa, an earthquake hit along the Cascadia fault line, toppling cities and changing landscapes up and down the west coast of the United States. Life changed forever for everyone, but for Vietnamese-American Virginia Crane, life changed shortly after the earthquake, when her mother left and never came back.
Ginny has gotten used to a life without her mother, helping her father take care of her two younger brothers, Wes and Harry. But when a mysterious package arrives for her eighteenth birthday, her life is shaken up yet again. For the first time, Ginny wants something more than to survive. And it might be a selfish desire, but she’s determined to find out what happened to her mother—even if it means leaving her family behind.
To be perfectly honest, this was a quick read that didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. I think I was more enamoured by the concept and felt let down by the execution.
It’s great that Ginny is a Vietnamese-American young woman, but in the end, I felt like it was almost a throwaway characteristic.
None of her interactions with other characters or her logic behind her actions were informed by her race. And quick frankly, that seems very unrealistic to me even in a post-apocalyptic world.
I also think this book suffered from a lack of exposition. I wanted more background on Ginny and her family dynamic. I understand that the graphic novel’s purpose was to explore life after the major natural disaster, but as a reader, I wanted more context.
I think just with a little bit more insight into Ginny’s family life before her mom left and before the world collapsed, I would’ve understood her more as a character. It felt extremely random that Ginny would just leave all of a sudden. I couldn’t make myself feel for the main characters. They felt like they perfectly fit the mold of certain archetypes you find in a post-apocalyptic book. You need the heroic older sister, the younger brother who can’t wait to grow up, and the other younger brother who’s just there to sometimes chime in.
On the one hand, I think the graphic novel does do a good job portraying a heartwarming story between siblings. But ultimately, I think the graphic novel is just okay. There’s nothing revolutionary about it, and that’s fine!
I really liked Four Dollars as a character. He’s a complex character with conflicting loyalties, which made him very interesting. In just a few pages, you could see that he was a changed man but he just couldn’t shake his old life. He was haunted by his choices he had to make to survive.
While I did have some trouble with the story, I do love the artwork a lot. It’s very simple but gets the point across with a minimal colour palette and harsh dark lines.
In fact, my favourite art blocks were the ones of scenery. It’s amazing what artists can do with only three colours!
The story did end on a very interesting note so I think I will be back for more once the second installment comes out.