Monday, April 26, 2010

Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess

With the release of the Percy Jackson books and movie and the remake of Clash of the Titans, it seems like Greek myths are coming into vogue lately. This particular book is the second in a series called Olympians being published by First Second. It is written and illustrated by George O'Connor, a graphic novelist whose prior work includes Journey into Mohawk Country, an illustrated version of 16th century Dutch trader Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert's journals.
The art is done in a clean, energetic style that brings to mind superhero comics. There may not be lush or many backgrounds, but the characters fly into action and are definitely expressive.

Athena's tale retells a number of classical myths and includes many characters. The narrative is told by the Fates, three immortal women who spin the threads that make up people's and gods' lives. The story is framed as the tale of how Athena's aegis came to be in its final, glorious, and impenetrable form. The first tale is of how Athena was born, fully grown and armored, out of Zeus's head. The second details how she got the name Pallas and also how she received her aegis. The third is about the Gigantomachy, a great battle between the giants and the gods over the cosmic order of things. The fourth tale retells the adventure of Perseus, the demigod who slew Medusa and Cetus the sea monster and then became the founding king of Mycenae. The book ends with the tale of Arachne, a boastful weaver who engages Athena in a contest.

The back matter of the book is chock full of helpfulness, including a notes from the author page which tells about how O'Connor came to tell these stories. There are also copious footnotes providing more details about the background of the stories, a bibliography of recommended works, and discussion questions that some readers may find engaging. Also, in the guise of pin-up/info pages from comic books, O'Connor provides profiles on four of the major characters in the book.

Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess is a faithful retelling of classical Greek myths. Reviewer Andrew Wheeler said it may be a tad violent for some younger readers but called it "damn good comics about the original warrior woman." A wider range of reviews can be found at Goodreads. And for more information about the entire series, O'Connor writes a blog about it.

An excerpt, reviews, and teachers guide can be found at the book's official page at Macmillan.

Thank you again to Gina at First Second for the review copy!

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