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Olympians box set (1-6), by George O’Connor - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Olympians box set (1-6), by George O’Connor [Oct. 13th, 2014|12:01 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Review copies provided by First Second.


This box set includes the following Olympians titles: Zeus, King of the Gods, Athena, Grey-Eyed Goddess, Hera, The Goddess and Her Glory, Hades, Lord of the Dead, Poseidon, Earth Shaker, and Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. It looks like they intend to keep on with the series.


These are pretty straight-up comic book retellings of Greek myths for the young adult set. There are not graphically depicted rapes on the page, but on the other hand there is a great deal less glossing over than one might fear given the “for the young adult set” label: O’Connor understands that bowdlerizing the Greek myths takes a great deal out of them and sets young adults up to make references with undercurrents that they don’t mean, so while he isn’t drawing genitalia, he is drawing implications. In the last two volumes in particular, Hermes starts to develop as a character–his volume should be a lot of fun when it comes around–and to be one of the main sources of humor, but there are others. When I see discussion questions in the back of a book intended for young people, I wince, but some of these included gems like, “Zeus’s dad tried to eat him. Has your dad ever tried to eat you?” and, “Athena turned Aracne into a spider. Was this an appropriate way to resolve conflict? What other animals might she have turned her into?”


My twelve-year-old godson came over for supper when I was in the middle of reading these, and now he is in the middle of reading them too. He devoured four of them in an hour and a half, declined ice cream in order to keep on reading them, and was disappointed when his mother said it was time to go home. (I promised that they would still be here in a fortnight when they’re over for supper again.) So far there have been complete retellings of some of the major stories and bits and pieces on the edges of others; some of the stories in one volume will get called back in another, and there seems to be a lot of room for more. The characters reflect the wide variety of skin, hair, and eye colors, and to some extent body shapes, available in humans around the Mediterranean and the regions that would have migrated there. I particularly enjoyed the sea art in Poseidon’s volume, but the variety stayed fresh and interesting, and there’s plenty of room for more–Hestia, for example, has barely been touched on in these volumes, but she is portrayed as a sort of human flame, and we’ve hardly seen Artemis and Apollo either. The human heroes get a lot of time as the gods interact with them, but O’Connor doesn’t paint himself into the corner of trying to be exhaustive about any god or myth or story, just being interesting, which is a far better job to take on.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: wshaffer
2014-10-13 06:53 pm (UTC)
I can think of at least two young people in my life who would love the heck out of these, and I was not previously aware of their existence. Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: swan_tower
2014-10-13 07:29 pm (UTC)
That sounds excellent on basically all fronts.
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[User Picture]From: whswhs
2014-10-13 08:24 pm (UTC)
I learned that stuff primarily from Bullfinch's Mythology, which the local children's library had. There are some lively stories about the Greek gods, though from childhood on my real enthusiasm was for the Norse ones. This collection sounds entertaining, though I'm not sure what stories there are to tell about Hera; the Greek myths I remember kind of limit her to "Zeus's jealous wife."
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2014-10-13 10:27 pm (UTC)
O'Connor was actually fairly focused on rehabilitating Hera. He pointed out that the first temple in a town was often dedicated to Hera, and often the second too, so clearly she was not just "that jealous jerk married to the really important one" to the Greeks. He said she was his favorite, and although I don't think that quite came through, she certainly got better treatment than in many tellings/retellings.
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From: diatryma
2014-10-13 09:52 pm (UTC)
I wish I'd had these a couple years ago when a kiddo was getting into Greek mythology. They'd have been a lot better to give him as report research, for one thing. Miss that kiddo.
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[User Picture]From: ashnistrike
2014-10-13 09:57 pm (UTC)
If more discussion questions were like that, I wouldn't have looked up halfway through my high school copy of the Odyssey with the revelation that, "Wait a sec, if they would just stop testing my reading comprehension for five minutes this would be good!"
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[User Picture]From: whswhs
2014-10-13 10:50 pm (UTC)
Richard Armour had some utterly wonderful parody discussion questions in books such as Twisted Tales from Shakespeare. I kind of think there may have been some in The Pooh Perplex, too, though I haven't read that in an epoch.
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[User Picture]From: therck
2014-10-15 08:43 pm (UTC)
The books in this series are very popular at my daughter's elementary school library. They're almost always checked out and often have people waiting for them. I don't think they have all of them (the problem with a $600 a year book budget), though.
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