Book Review

Review: Odessa by Jonathan Hill

Odessa is a really sweet post-apocalyptic graphic novel that portrays a small group of siblings searching for their mother across a completely destroyed America. I enjoyed the story, and the drawing style, but often found myself asking ‘why’ as I read it.

Title: Odessa
Series: Odessa #1
Author/Illustrator: Jonathan Hill
Pages: 328
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: 10th November 2020
Ownership: eARC provided by the publisher

Rating: 3 stars

About the Book

Three Vietnamese-American siblings live with their Dad is what is left of Western America. Following a massive earthquake that tore the continent apart, their live has been one of make do and mend, and of survival. They live in a relatively sheltered village, but the world beyond it has torn itself apart.

Virginia Crane has assumed that her mother, who left the family shortly after the Big One, is dead, or missing. Since then, Ginny has been taking care of the family. But when she receives a birthday present and a photo from her, she decides to search for her. The problem is, she doesn’t know where to go, but she does know where to start.

My Review

I really liked the setting of this graphic novel. I love a post-apocalyptic story, and this one had weird creatures and plants, rival gangs and an America completely torn asunder. This backdrop is perfect for a graphic novel too, and Hill has done a super job of drawing out recognisable scenes, big architectural destruction and smaller scale emotion in a very simple three colour palette and exaggerated features. Certainly a style I enjoyed.

There were some nice touches in the story too, including the beginning of a young F/F relationship, but it is very barely touched on. The same with having Vietnamese-American protagonists – aside from the drawing style being slightly different to show these characters’ faces, there is nothing in the text or drawings that otherwise draws any attention to this. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not …

What didn’t work was the questions I ended up asking myself as the story went along. Ginny has two young brothers, Wes and Harry, who are VERY young in the way they behave. They are constantly bickering, not listening to each other and basically the cause of genuine and frightening problems in the story. Having the brothers argue once is fine, but having it as a constant plot point, particularly in a world where they know it’s dangerous, seemed a little odd. Especially when they seemed to wander off to look at toys?? Unfortunately it made the two younger boys confrontational and unlikeable.

(Seriously, having a stall of toys in a post-apocalyptic market just seems a bit creepy).

Finally, in some ways this felt like a very ‘young’ story. In a world full of apparently selfish and violent people, a number of adults seem surprisingly willing to put their own lives at risk to help these kids. In some ways it makes the young group seem even more helpless – Ginny is certainly naïve, but learns to be more discerning as the story goes on. But more than once they end up locked in a room whilst the adults attempt to deal with the problem.

Finally, if you think too much about it, the kids’ actions seem really selfish. They have abandoned their father, who has looked after them for eight years, to go and find a mother they barely knew or remembered. Even worse, they don’t actually know where she lives.

I did enjoy reading this and, now that they’re out in the world, I’d really like to read the next volume. There’s still lots to do and lots to discover.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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