A near-future dystopian retelling of The Oddyssey in a graphic novel? Sure, why not. I’ve always had a bit of an interest in Ancient Greek mythology. I read The Odyssey a few years back, and found it to be about three awesome chapters of daring adventures with cool mythical monsters sandwiched in between about twenty agonisingly boring chapters of people talking about stuff that meant absolutely nothing to me. I also found, as one might expect, that the writing style was one of the most dense, impenetrable and downright stodgy I’d ever come across. This, I felt, was a book from so far before my culture’s way of thinking had evolved that I’d probably never be able to appreciate its true significance. The Event Horizon, by Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto and published by Image in 2012, deftly handles all of these problems by getting rid of all the tedious exposition and focusing solely on the action of the story, and by re-setting the events in the aftermath of an American war in the Middle East. “The Soldier with no Name”, so named because both calling him Odysseus and NOT calling him Odysseus would both seem out of place, is a captain in the US military who, when his evacuation from war-torn Syria goes horribly wrong, is forced to embark on a seemingly never ending journey back to his home. Meanwhile back in the USA, which is being ravaged by poverty and environmental disasters, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus (hey, it never says his name isn’t Telemachus) have to deal with mobs of power-hungry hicks who want to muscle in on the family farm and precious water supply while the old man is away.
As a re-contextualising of an ancient tale it isn’t bad. And while fitting the entirety of a story whose title is now synonymous with “really, really long journey” into a six issue graphic novel inevitably meant losing some of the less-essential segments, most of the major plot points are accounted for. All of the weirdness and magic of the original have been stripped away, so if you’re hoping for a modern interpretation of Odysseus entering the realm of the dead or the witch Circe turning half of his men into pigs then you’re out of luck. The Cyclops is done very well though- a huge Russian soldier in cybernetic armour with a single glowing eye, who has taken over an entire island and makes the terrified locals worship him like a deity. And hey, it never says that his name isn’t Polyphemus or that his father isn’t the god of the sea, so who knows. The new version of the sirens is especially ingenious- a cult of gorgeous women who broadcast the promise of a better life via radio, luring weary pilgrims to an offshore oil rig where they are imprisoned and worked to death. It’s a very clever twist but unfortunately the execution is a bit rushed and confusing. And I was a bit disappointed by the lack of some new version of Scylla and Charbydis- surely some hidden nuclear submarine or freak storm could’ve made an effective stand-in for a sea monster, but I guess there’s only so much you can pack in. The soldier’s eventual homecoming is done very well though, and there’s one panel in particular of him marching down his old driveway with a machine gun over one shoulder and a bow over the other, looking thoroughly pissed off, that really conveys how much this poor guy has been through and how NOT in the mood to see a bunch of guys squatting in his house he is.
The artwork is pretty nice- fairly minimalist but getting the feel of a whole bunch of locations totally right, including jungles, desert, flooded cities and the open seas. Most of the action is narrated by the soldier and his inner monologues do the job of showing that this isn’t some ancient semi-immortal hero- this is just a tough, clever but very much human guy who comes close to totally breaking numerous times. Sometimes the storytelling isn’t quite up to snuff: I had a hard time getting a handle on the details of Penelope’s story and some of the supporting characters Captain No-Name meets on his journey seem pretty unnecessary. Still, making the second oldest known story in the Western World work for a modern audience is no mean feat and these guys should be commended for doing such a solid job. The Infinite Horizon is a lean, intense and deftly told homecoming story, and stands as a both great way to introduce modern readers to the glorious insanity that is Ancient Greek mythology, and as a pretty decent read in its own right.