Age of Bronze. Vols 1-3 by Eric Shanower There was this famous war in the Bronze Age in a city named Troy, about which many, many stories have been written over the centuries, including most famously the Iliad, which somehow doesn’t include some of the most famous bits of the legend. Shanower is doing his best to weave these stories into a cohesive whole. Not only did he read a lot of stories, but he did a lot of art and archeological research to make the settings, the clothes, and the people as accurate and realistic as possible. Naturally, this amount of research appeals to the library geek and the historical recreationist in me, but all would be lost if the story didn’t work. Shanower’s beautifully detailed drawings and expressive text bring the ancient characters to life. He’s made the decision not to have the gods appear in the story, though the characters nearly uniformly strongly believe in them and appear to receive messages from them. While a strong break from the Iliad, it’s a choice that makes the story more accessible to modern readers, who may pray for guidance but don’t generally view people as heroes who succeed only because the gods made it happen. It also makes the story deeper and more ambiguous: did Aphrodite really promise Helen to Paris? Or is this just another excuse from a young man who demonstrates overpowering arrogance and belief in his own charm from the very beginning, starting with deciding to win the royal athletic contests to win back his family’s bull and continuing on to kidnapping Helen instead of liberating the aged aunt he was sent to rescue, just because he didn’t care about an old woman. I just read the entry on the Iliad in Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan; one of the things he mentions is how cinematic Homer’s language is. This work feels cinematic as well, as the view zooms from close-ups to wide panoramas. Though in line with the Iliad, the war itself is just getting started at the end of volume three, there’s plenty of violence, sex and mayhem to keep things going in the meantime. This is a book that manages to be beautiful, macho and compelling all at the same time.
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