Friday, January 10, 2014

Aphrodite: Goddess of Love

I have been enamored with George O'Connor's Olympians series from the get-go, admiring his translation of Greek myths into more modern sensibilities and superheroic iconography. This sixth book in the series focuses on Aphrodite, and what I admire most about it is how O'Connor tackled the problematic original source material. He focuses more on what makes her formidable and powerful and only obliquely refers to her many ribald, scandalous stories. Her origins are different than those of the other Olympians, as she is almost a force of nature than a member of the Pantheon. And her origins are somewhat ambiguous.
In terms of the artwork, I admired how there are lots of classical references, such as the above sequence that called to mind Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, without being derivative or too literal. There is still a superhero comics flavor to the proceedings, but this volume is less bombastic and leans more on atmosphere and tone to tell the stories.
Perhaps that shift was necessary as Aphrodite's tales tend to be less about the typical male hero of Greek myths and more about choices, transformation, and relationships. Still, I think O'Connor packs a lot of emotion, humor, and personality into tales of the birth of Aphrodite, the Judgment of Paris, Eros's antics, and Pygmalion. This book might not feature the cinematic action of past volumes, but it does build on the stories and characters from those books. And I am impressed by how all of this continuity is being thread through volumes. I think it would be rewarding to young readers who read and revisit the series.

New York Times bestselling artist/writer George O'Connor has created a number of graphic novels in addition to these well received Olympians books about Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon. His first was the American history journal account Journey into Mohawk Country and his second was the dystopian future book Ball Peen Hammer, written by Adam Rapp. He also has published a number of children's picture books.

I felt that this might not be my favorite book in the series, but it is still well done and intriguing, a sentiment I saw reflected in other reviews. Jeff Provine wrote, "While not O’Connor’s strongest, Aphrodite serves as a great midpoint for the series," adding that it looks back at the origins depicted in the first book and also ahead to the future volumes that will feature the Trojan War. Amanda from Novel Addiction commented, "I'm glad the author chose to give us stories that show Aphrodite as a strong female lead instead of a lusty lady." Kirkus Reviews summed up, "This neatly nuanced take on Aphrodite shows respect for the ultrafeminine heroine."

Aphrodite: Goddess of Love was published by First Second, and they have copious resources available here.

Thank you for the review copy, Gina!

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