Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ARES: Bringer of War by George O'Connor

George O'Connor has been busy retelling the Olympic myths using graphic novels for a while now, and the good folks at First Second books have been doing a great job getting the books out. They even have a website for the entire collection. What O'Connor is doing is fascinating. He's not just telling the original versions, but through his artwork and dialogue, is reimagining the stories in a more fleshed-out way.

I am obliged to say that when it comes to Ares, a bunch of the flesh ends up dead in the battle of Troy, since O'Connor chose to inject The Iliad into this book as a means of focusing on Ares, the god of war. While the "facts" from The Iliad are there, rather than focusing solely on the actions of the men on the field, O'Connor focuses on the proxy battles being fought among the gods and goddesses, with an emphasis on their desires and interferences. Further, in an interesting take, O'Connor tackles "daddy issues" in this book by depicting Ares's uneasy relationship with his father, Zeus, and the relationship between Askalaphos, a son of Ares, killed in battle. Whereas Ares thinks Zeus doesn't like him much, and gets confirmation from Zeus, Askalaphos thinks Ares is indifferent to his fate, but we see Ares both mourning and enraged by his son's death in battle.

Here's a spread that shows Ares up top, with Eris, goddess of discord and strife to his right, and his sons (with Aphrodite) Phobos (fear) and Deimos (panic) to the left - they are more concepts than people, as you can see. Ares's son Askalaphos is the storyteller in the panel below.

The book is awesome in explaining the battle between the Greeks and the Trojans that results in the death of Achilles, explaining more of the interplay between the gods and Zeus's desire to wipe out a bunch of demigods if possible. The back matter in the graphic novel is awesome, and includes an Author's Note, profiles of Ares, Eris, and Achilles, and "G(r)eek Notes" that talk about how O'Connor made some of his art decisions, how he feels about different characters, etc., and a bibliography that includes both websites and books for further reading. Inside the front cover is a family tree of Olympians.

I found all of the G(r)eek Notes interesting, but especially liked this one about Eris, goddess of discord:

PAGE 6 PANEL 1: Speaking of fun, I was super excited to get a chance to draw Eris, goddess of troublemaking again--she ended up being my favorite part of the previous volume of OLYMPIANS, Aphrodite: Goddess of Love. I was so enamored of the character of Eris that in the early stages of Ares I spent a while trying to install her as narrator. That was a bad idea because (a) she hardly appears in the Iliad, the epic poem by Homer that provide the framework for this book, and (b) since she's crazier than an outhouse rat she makes for a spectacularly unreliable narrator.

I am left wishing I owned the earlier titles in the series, Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Aphrodite, and very much looking forward to what/who comes next.


Cassandra said...

Can't wait to share this one with my kids!

Liviania said...

I love this series. They're all so beautiful, and the notes in the back show how much thought went into the adaptations.

Kelly Fineman said...

Cassandra: It is really interesting how it manages to both profile Ares and discuss the battle between the Trojans and the Greeks.