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Robot Review | Olympians: Hera – The Goddess and Her Glory

Olympians, Volume 3: Hera - The Goddess and Her Glory

Olympians, Volume 3: Hera – The Goddess and Her Glory
Written and Illustrated by George O’Connor
First Second; $9.99

I used to hate Hera. Still do, most of the time; the way she’s portrayed. I mean, even in the Greek mythology I read as a kid, Hera was always picking on Hercules; sneaking snakes into his crib; getting him to kill his own kids. And I liked Hercules. I grew up reading comics about him and catching the occasional Steve Reeves movie on Saturday afternoon TV. How could you not like a guy who killed an invulnerable lion and then wore its skin as armor? And none of those stories – right up to and including the ones with Kevin Sorbo – had anything good to say about Hera. Not until George O’Connor.

O’Connor’s been teasing his interpretation of the Queen of the Gods since the first volume of Olympians. That one was about Zeus, whom O’Connor presented as a hero, but one who couldn’t control his own libido. He’s not defined by his sex addiction, but it certainly influences his choices and makes life miserable for the women in his life. When Zeus first notices Hera in that volume, I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for her. She’s just minding her own business, talking with a friend, and Zeus appreciates her from afar. “Oh, no,” I thought, knowing where that story would eventually end up.

This third volume of Olympians is where it ends up. Over the last couple of installments – and in interviews and on his blog – O’Connor’s been saying that Hera is his favorite goddess. He explains it again in the Author’s Notes to this book. “Part of it,” he writes, “is because she’s the one person that Zeus well and truly fears.” But the reason for that – and the reason she has the reputation that she does as a shrewish, jealous wife – is because Zeus is a terrible husband. The emphasis is O’Connor’s. So, though Hera’s always been my least favorite goddess, I’ve been eagerly awaiting O’Connor’s stab at changing my mind. His first two volumes, Zeus and Athena were so excellent that I had high expectations for Hera. If anyone could turn her into a hero, it was O’Connor.

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What Are You Reading?

Tara Normal

Tara Normal

Welcome once again to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest contributor is comics writer Dwight L. MacPherson, who you might know from Sidewise, currently running on Zuda; the pirate story Dead Men Tell No Tales; or Kid Houdini and The Silver-Dollar Misfits, among other works.

To see what Dwight and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click on the link …

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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess

Olympians, Volume 2: Athena

Olympians, Volume 2: Athena

Olympians: Athena, Grey-Eyed Goddess
Written and Illustrated by George O’Connor
First Second; $9.99

After loving the Zeus volume in George O’Connor’s Olympians series, I hoped that the other volumes in the series could live up to it. Zeus was surprising in the uniqueness of O’Connor’s designs and how well he succeeded at making it exciting as well as faithful to the myths. I had enough respect for O’Connor to expect another great volume, but still… one gets nervous.

O’Connor does succeed again with Athena, but he goes about it in a different way than he chose for Zeus. That’s nice in that it keeps the surprises coming, but it’s also necessary because of the nature of Athena’s mythology. While Zeus’ was a straight-out origin story with a single narrative running through it, Athena’s is made up of several unconnected events. To accommodate this, O’Connor has the Three Fates tell her tale.

This sounds like a straightforward device, but O’Connor adds depth to it by understanding the nature of the Fates’ storytelling and applying that to his book. The first Fate begins the story by spinning out the tale of Athena’s birth, then the other two add to it, weaving in other events until at last the full picture of the goddess is complete. It’s more than just a way to present the story; it’s a philosophy. And it works. Athena presents a view of the goddess that at least feels whole. As O’Connor points out, it’s not whole – that would require “a thousand walls with a hundred thousand tapestries” – but it is satisfying. And besides, Athena will undoubtedly show up in future volumes of the series.

Betrayal, giant monsters, and the Clash of the the Titans after the break.

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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs: Zeus, King of the Gods

Olympians: Zeus, King of the Gods

Olympians: Zeus, King of the Gods

Olympians: Zeus, King of the Gods
Written and Illustrated by George O’Connor
First Second; $9.99

When I was putting together my picks for What Looks Good for April last week, I left out a book. I probably left out a bunch of them – that’s the nature of that kind of column – but one that I know I left out was First Second’s Olympians, Athena: The Grey-Eyed Goddess. I hadn’t started reading Zeus, King of the Gods yet and didn’t know what to expect from the sequel. Should’ve known, because it’s First Second and I’ve never disliked anything they’ve published, but I erred on the side of caution and left it out. And err I did. Having read Zeus now, I can’t wait for Athena.

At the end of last year, I talked about how Demons of Sherwood revived my love for medieval adventure. There’ve been a few projects like that lately that have reminded me why I used to love something as a kid. George O’Connor’s Zeus has done that for Greek Mythology. It perfectly walks the microbe-thin line between faithfully retelling the myths and embellishing them for the sake of entertainment. As much as I appreciate books like Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, they’re pretty dry accounts of these stories and rely on the inherent adventure in the tales for most of the excitement. At the other end of the spectrum are countless books and movies that just take the characters and tell new stories with them without any regard for the originals. Those are fun, but they’re not mythology, you know?

Taking most of its material from Hesiod’s Theogony, O’Connor’s account tells the story of Zeus up to his overthrow of his father Kronos and the foundation of the Pantheon on Olympus. Zeus actually begins much earlier than that though, starting with the creation of Gaea, the world, and following her creation of her mate, Ouranos, the sky, and the birth of their children, the Titans, including Kronos. I’ve always glossed over this story in my readings of the Greek myths. It’s too big; too epic. The characters – the earth, sky, and time itself – are too inhuman. I always skipped ahead to Zeus’ arrival. A lightning-hurling, shape-changing king of all the gods … that I was interested in.

The redemption of Time and Cyclops after the break.

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