Friday, February 4, 2011

Review - "Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess"

Thanks to the overwhelming popularity of the Percy Jackson series, Greek mythology has really come back into style (and I suspect we might see a little of the same thing happen with Egyptian mythology on the heels of Riordan's newest series, The Kane Chronicles). This is both a good thing and a bad thing; I haven't fully decided where I land on the Goddess Girls series, among others. Part of the good that has cropped up lately is George O'Connor's Olympians graphic novel set, the newest title of which is Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess.

The story begins with plain black text on a stark white page: "All of us are born naked, helpless, and defenseless. Not so Pallas Athena." Not only is this a cracking good first sentence, but it brings to mind classic tales of heroism and adventure. "All children, except one, grow up" anyone? Athena's story comes to us courtesy of the Moirae, or the Fates, who spin her tale like a tapestry, small pices at a time to create one large and imposing picture. We are told the story of Athena's birth, which quite frankly, is one of the harder pieces of mythology to pull off. Girl pops out of Pop's head fully armed and raring to go? That takes quite of bit of suspension of disbelief. Thankfully, O'Connor has such a strong grasp of his details, and a wonderfully classic illustration style that the concept of Zeus swallowing Metis, his queen, and eventually giving birth to his own daughter from a violent cleft in his skull is easily digestible. In fact, it makes perfect sense.

The remaining tales in Athena's tapestry include the death of Pallas, her revenge on Medusa and Arachne and her aid to the hero Perseus weave together a story of a goddess known for her wisdom, cunning and bravery. The author's note contains a bit of girl power ra-ra-ing, but Athena's tale is short of sentimentality. She is portrayed equally in her grief for her friend Pallas and her rage and vengeful spirit to Medusa who broke vows in Athena's own temple and Arachne, who mocked the gods with her talent. As he did in his tale of Zeus, O'Connor makes no attempt here to paint a flawless goddess, but a fearsome one, a godess that would inspire devotion and service in the hearts of mortals everywhere. And by doing so, he helps us understand why these myths were so powerful in the first place.

Athena :The Grey-Eyed Goddess by George O'Connor
2010, First Second
Library copy

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