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In the Land of Gods and Monsters

Revisit Greek mythology as graphic novels with George O'Connor's Olympians (Vols. 1-6).

In the Land of Gods and Monsters

BOOK REPORT for Olympians (Vols. 1-6) by George O'Connor

Cover Story: Oh My Gods
BFF Charm: Caution!
Swoonworthy Scale: 1
Talky Talk: Mythic Meets Modern
Arty Art: O.G. Superheroes
Bonus Factor: Greek Mythology
Relationship Status: Unfinished Business

Cover Story: Oh My Gods

Each god or goddess gets their own volume, with a kickass cover, like a giant Olympians trading card, alluding to the story within. The covers have some cool, shiny Rainbow Fish*-esque bits -- e.g. Zeus' lightning bolt, Athena's spear -- all except Hera's, anyway. Weirdly, she gets a tagline instead. But, really -- as someone who's already known for being Zeus' beleaguered wife, can that woman ever catch a break!?

*On which the internet apparently has v. divisive thoughts. But fear not, parents: I read that book as a kid, and it did nothing to curb my rampant selfishness.

The Deal:

It's a tale almost literally as old as time. First, there was nothing -- or Kaos. And from Kaos, there was Gaea, Mother Earth, who created and then married the sky, Ouranos. From their union begat the titans, and from the titans arose the gods. This series is ostensibly about the Twelve Olympians of the Greek pantheon, but it's just as much about the other gods, mortals, and everything in between of Greek mythology.

BFF Charm: Caution!

Don't get me wrong -- having a Greek god as a BFF would def. have its perks. (Like Dionysus, god of wine? YES, PLEASE.) But given the tempers and the almighty powers that they wield, it's just pragmatic to stay on the their good sides.

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Well, these are the Greek gods, so there's plenty of sexytimes happening, which are only hinted at, as appropriate for this series' younger target demo. (There are several instances of kissing with bodies in close proximity, followed by 'And then she got pregnant!'.) The most significant couples shown so far are Zeus and Hera, and Persephone and Hades. While Zeus and Hera's 300-year-long wedding night could seem exhausting romantic, his subsequent wandering eye and her being the perpetually scorned woman most certainly do not. The king and eventual queen of the underworld, however, turn out to be quite a compatible pair, with Persephone having more agency over her sitch, instead of being, like, straight-up raped.

Talky Talk: Mythic Meets Modern

The tone generally has gravitas befitting of a lofty epic, but it occasionally lightens into more casual and modernized territory, particularly with the dialogue. The contrast can be rather jarring, but more effective is the absence of text; O'Connor knows when to pull back and let his artwork do the talking. (They're each worth a thousand words, after all.)

Arty Art: O.G. Superheroes

The Olympians describes itself as "mankind's original superheroes". But unlike a superhero property, it doesn't dwell too long on the origin story -- esp. since most of the gods have the same origin anyway -- choosing instead to dig into the action, of which there is an abundance. Seeing the Greek gods in comic form also made me nostalgic for a cartoon from my childhood, Mythic Warriors, in how they both retell Greek mythology in way that's engaging and accessible for younger audiences. 

Bonus Factor: Greek Mythology

O'Connor's take on Greek mythology has something for newbies and experts alike. I especially enjoyed the aspects that usually don't get a lot of play in pop culture, like Athena's arrogance, Persephone embracing her role in the underworld, and Poseidon's monstrous children.

Casting Call:

John Slattery as Zeus

As Roger Sterling, John has proven to be extremely adept at playing a charismatic, philandering asshole (aka Zeus' most important traits).

Michelle Rodriguez as Athena

Depictions of Athena usually emphasize the wisdom aspect, so what better reminder of her also being a proficient figher than casting a kickass action star?

Julianna Marguilies as Hera

Is there any proof that she ISN'T an immortal deity? No. No, there is not.

The Rock as Heracles

Why mess with perfection? (I mean, who else could believably throw a freaking horse?)

Christian Bale as Hades

Well, we know he can nail the dark broody angst.

Krysten Ritter as Kore/Persephone

Honestly, how has she not played the queen of the underworld in some capacity already?

Jason Momoa as Poseidon

I never felt strongly about the Aquaman casting, one way or another. Then I started casting Poseidon; looking at the sea (har) of alternatives, it was like, "YES I GET IT." Khal Drogo can finally put that Baywatch experience to good use.

Gina Torres as Aphrodite

Obviously. 

Relationship Status: Unfinished Business

As a Greek mythology fangirl, I've had a lot of fun getting reacquainted with the Olympians through this interpretation and this graphic novel format. But even though each volume has its own self-contained story, it does feel very much like they're part of an epic and I'm left clamouring for more (specifically: the Trojan War!). Fortunately, these books are quick reads, so I can binge-(re-)read the entire collection when all of them have been released.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copies from the library (Vols. 1-5) and from First Second (Vol. 6). I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). Olympians Vols. 1-8 are available now.

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.