Friday, June 11, 2010

The Long Good-Bye

This is going to be my final post for Guys Lit Wire and I wanted to sign off with something appropriately epic. And what is more epic, more legendary, more mythical than myth itself? The first book in the Olympians series, Zeus: King of the Gods (by O'Connor), struck like a bolt of lightning, and now Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess (also by O'Connor) attacks with a vengeance. Athena was Greek mythology's fiercest warrior -- sort of an Ancient Greek Punisher -- and the book presents her at her battlin' best. Leading the gods against the invading army of the Gigantomachy or launching into an incredibly conceived, beautifully rendered, soaring battle against their leader Pallas, the action is like the very best that super-hero comics have to offer. At the same time, O'Connor has carefully researched his subject and fills his heroine with a seething, coiled personality and his tale with plenty of fascinating details. He doesn't just recount Athena's battles but also highlights her influence on the lives of mere mortals (and semi-mortals) like Perseus as he battles the Medusa and Arachne as she is punished for her arrogance. The series is already a high-water mark in heroic comics, with two more titles still to come (Hera and Hades).

As far as legendary heroism goes, you could do a lot worse than the samurai. From history to books to movies, their devotion to honor and combat skill has lived in the imagination for centuries. In Swordsmith Assassin (by Cosby, Nelson and Hayrula), Japan's greatest sword-maker, Toshiro Ono, returns home one day to find his wife and son dead. The true horror, he learns, is that they were slain with a blade of Ono's own making. The despairing swordsmith launches himself on a quest of honor to track down every blade he ever forged so that he can remove them from the Earth, intent on reclaiming them from whoever possesses them, be it the land's greatest sword master or the emperor himself. On this great emotional hook comes a gritty tale of conflict with something to say about the true path to redemption. And is this the only Japan-centered graphic novel that doesn't feature manga-style art? Maybe, but you won't miss it. Hayrula has created a dark, moody feudal Japan where you can feel the dirt under your feet and sweep of the blade as it cuts the air. And just look at that cover.

It's been my pleasure to spout off about things I love every month and an honor to do it in such impressive company. Thanks for reading.


Colleen said...

Thanks for everything, Jesse - you will be sorely missed.

Jesse said...

Thanks, Colleen. I'm going to miss it around here, too.

a. fortis said...

Can't wait to read Athena. Thanks for another great set of graphic novel reviews--I'm sorry to hear that they'll be your last. Best of luck!