Saturday, April 3, 2010



By Nate Stearns
Staff Writer


I’d like to start this review with what I consider to be a shameful secret about my past. If you are one of my students reading this review, please stop reading unless you want your opinion of me to be dramatically lowered. When I was in middle school, I was somewhat obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons (shocker, I know), so much so that my friends and I would drag out DEITIES AND DEMIGODS, fight over who got Zeus and who got Odin, and then do terrible battle with icosahedrons. Hit points and lightning bolts flew. It didn’t matter if you were fighting Odin or Anubis or 1000 chaos dragons, Zeus always won.

Which is why, when I read George O’Connor’s ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS all of that came rushing back. But O’Connor’s Zeus is not the white-bearded, thunderbolt thrower that we usually think of when we think of Zeus. This story goes back to the less well-known origins of Zeus and his battle for existence against his Titan father Kronos. Kronos — no candidate for either father or son of the year—had killed his own Daddy (the sky aka Ouranos) in order to reign supreme over the Earth. Fearing the same might happen to him, Kronos got in the habit of swallowing whole all of his children.

Luckily for Zeus, he has people on his side. Rhea (Kronos’ wife) and Gaea (Kronos’ mother) conspire to trick the titan into believing that a crude stone baby is Zeus (apparently Kronos, despite his omnipotence, has substandard taste buds). Zeus is then raised by a small army of nymphs on a small island and grows up to look more or less like a blonde Skeet Ulrich. He then uses more trickery to force Kronos to cough up all of his brothers and sisters and instigate a massive Titans vs. gods conflagration that would last for decades and turn the earth from a paradise of milk and honey into a smoking husk.

Students who are used to being confronted with Greek mythology in Edith Hamilton will find this graphic novel series as a welcome change. The stories are suited for the graphic treatment and the superhero style seems legitimate in describing the stories of immortal adventurers. The violence is sketched in true superhero fashion in mostly PG-style carnage and most hints of sex or adult themes are discretely addressed. For instance, Zeus cavorts with nymphs on the island in a very innocent, giggly middle school sort of way. When Zeus wins an important battle, Hera runs her fingers through his hair and mentions, “Your hair…It looks nice.” Which is a line that somehow never got included in Bullfinch’s Mythology.

One of the most obvious uses of this book is as a template for students in rendering other stories in this style. Many other battle stories from other myths (say the Ramayana or Ragnarök) would work well as subjects. Applications such as ComicLife and websites such as ToonDoo can help kids convert these stories into comic strips.

Highly Recommended for middle school and high school students

Author: George O’Connor
Illustrator: George O’Connor
Publisher: First Second
Genre: Mythology

Format: Softcover
Pages: 78
Color: Color
ISBN-13: 978-1-59643-431-8

No comments: