Olympians box set (1-6), by George O’Connor

Review copies provided by First Second.

This box set includes the following Olympians titles: Zeus, King of the Gods, Athena, Grey-Eyed Goddess, Hera, The Goddess and Her Glory, Hades, Lord of the Dead, Poseidon, Earth Shaker, and Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. It looks like they intend to keep on with the series.

These are pretty straight-up comic book retellings of Greek myths for the young adult set. There are not graphically depicted rapes on the page, but on the other hand there is a great deal less glossing over than one might fear given the “for the young adult set” label: O’Connor understands that bowdlerizing the Greek myths takes a great deal out of them and sets young adults up to make references with undercurrents that they don’t mean, so while he isn’t drawing genitalia, he is drawing implications. In the last two volumes in particular, Hermes starts to develop as a character–his volume should be a lot of fun when it comes around–and to be one of the main sources of humor, but there are others. When I see discussion questions in the back of a book intended for young people, I wince, but some of these included gems like, “Zeus’s dad tried to eat him. Has your dad ever tried to eat you?” and, “Athena turned Aracne into a spider. Was this an appropriate way to resolve conflict? What other animals might she have turned her into?”

My twelve-year-old godson came over for supper when I was in the middle of reading these, and now he is in the middle of reading them too. He devoured four of them in an hour and a half, declined ice cream in order to keep on reading them, and was disappointed when his mother said it was time to go home. (I promised that they would still be here in a fortnight when they’re over for supper again.) So far there have been complete retellings of some of the major stories and bits and pieces on the edges of others; some of the stories in one volume will get called back in another, and there seems to be a lot of room for more. The characters reflect the wide variety of skin, hair, and eye colors, and to some extent body shapes, available in humans around the Mediterranean and the regions that would have migrated there. I particularly enjoyed the sea art in Poseidon’s volume, but the variety stayed fresh and interesting, and there’s plenty of room for more–Hestia, for example, has barely been touched on in these volumes, but she is portrayed as a sort of human flame, and we’ve hardly seen Artemis and Apollo either. The human heroes get a lot of time as the gods interact with them, but O’Connor doesn’t paint himself into the corner of trying to be exhaustive about any god or myth or story, just being interesting, which is a far better job to take on.

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