Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Couple More Myths and Legends

Today's look at Lerner Publishing's Graphic Universe books features a couple written by Jeff Limke. He is an educator who has written many comics, and he seems to specialize in historical myths and fantasy stories.

Jason: Quest for the Golden Fleece is sort of like the Greek myth version of The Expendables, with a band of Greek heroes, including Heracles and the twins, Castor and Pollux, led by Jason on a series of adventures. In terms of this story, both brute strength and intelligence are necessary elements. I also have to say to those who are familiar with this story that the characters here are more clever than duplicitous (there are a bunch of double crossers in the versions I remember). On the plus side, the story has all kinds of great action/adventure elements, with Jason contending against fire-breathing bulls, skeleton warriors, and even a dragon.
I liked the energy and pacing in this story. The artwork, by Tim Seeley, co-creator of Hack/Slash and Revival, was crisp and very enticing. He also draws great monsters and attractive human beings in a dynamic style, which is very well suited to this particular narrative.

If I had a quibble with this book, it is with the ending, which has Medea tossing her kid brother into the ocean rather than cutting him up into little bits and a happy scene with Jason and Medea pledging their love to each other. I get that this book is geared toward younger readers, but I did blanch a little that the gory details and abject state of affairs Jason finally fell into were omitted.

This second book, King Arthur: Excalibur Unsheathed, is an excellent introduction for younger readers into the world of Arthurian legends. Adapted from Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, this book recounts tales of King Arthur from his youth, from his pulling the legendary sword from the stone, to his struggles to assert his rule as a young king. He vies with King Pellinore (who will later be his ally), meets Lady Guinevere (who will later be his wife), and adventures with Merlin as he seeks his birthright and a new sword. These are fun, exciting, and extremely well rendered episodes in the time before Arthur grew his beard and came to more complicated and treacherous affairs. Like the Jason book above, the narrative ends before the grim parts of these heroes' lives.
Also like the Jason volume, the highlight (not to detract from the good story) is the artwork, here by Thomas Yeates, a very respected comics veteran. His style is intricate, realistic, and somewhat soft, smacking of his influences, Hal Foster, N.C. Wyeth, and Wally Wood.

So, to sum up today's books. They both have well presented stories, excellent artwork, and I recommend them as introductions into the world of myth and legend. I think they would both be popular with upper elementary readers who like action and adventure tales especially.

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