Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pantheon: The True Story of the Egyptian Deities

As you might guess from the cover, depicting a buff Horus kicking his uncle Set square in the family jewels, this is not your typical take on ancient myths. Read from a contemporary stance, Egyptian mythology is full of some strong, strange stuff, including incest, murder, sex, sibling rivalries, and dismemberments. Pantheon: The True Story of the Egyptian Deities tells those stories in a faithful fashion (it is prefaced by a Egyptologist who vouches for it), but it also modernizes them with a current sensibility, slang, and sarcasm. The result is pretty hilarious, gross, and compelling. For the most part, the book focuses on the misadventures of the brother/sister/husband/wife duo of Osiris and Isis as they contend with their brother Set and his efforts to disrupt the world and their lives. But everything begins with the story of creation that I partially excerpt here:
As you can see, the artwork was appropriately cartoonish and quite clever in many places. I loved how it was a combination of iconography and comic conventions and also how it balanced storytelling with joking. The dialogue and pacing in the excerpt give an accurate picture of the tone of the entire book. Many of the events seem surreal and hilarious, but they are also reflective of the superhuman flaws and personalities of the gods themselves. They mess up continually, feud, and allow themselves to be ruled haphazardly. Still, despite the capriciousness and hilarity, there is an element of sincerity and depth that especially arises in the book's ending. Before reading it, I had a passing knowledge of the Egyptian pantheon, but I feel that I learned much more here. I also got a good number of laughs from it, which was a huge bonus.

Pantheon is the work of Hamish Steele. It is his debut graphic novel, and he got funding for its initial version via a Kickstarter campaign. He also works on a biweekly webcomic called Deadendia.

All of the reviews I have read about this book have been celebratory. Publishers Weekly wrote, "After the parade of slapstick and gross sexuality that comes before it, it’s a surprising conclusion that makes the ancient stories feel relevant and alive." Joe Gordon called it "an utter, cheeky delight." James Smart opined, "This take on ancient Egypt is educational as well as hilarious." Kevin Harkins called it "one of the cleverest ideas I have seen in a while."

Pantheon was published by Nobrow Press, and they have a preview and more info about it here. I suggest this book for mature readers because of profanity and a number of these attributes listed on the back cover:

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