Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Poseidon: Earth Shaker by George O'Connor

I've said it several times and several ways, so I might as well be blunt this time: George O'Connor, with this series, could and should be to the current generation of young readers what Edith Hamilton was to mine and the generation or two before that. He's in the middle of a series of graphic novels about the Greek gods -- so far there have been Zeus, Athena, Hera, and Hades, with Aphrodite promised and, with luck, another half-dozen or so to follow that -- that combine deep scholarship, a thoughtful attention to the core elements of stories, a master draftsman's eye and hand for pages that tell those stories brilliantly, and a narrative voice that speaks straight to younger readers without ever talking down to them.

This time, with Poseidon, he takes on one of the least relatable of the Olympians -- sure, Hades seems cold and distant, but his story is all about wanting some human contact. Poseidon, on the other hand, is a figure of power and distant wrath in the myths, but rarely if ever descends to the human level -- he doesn't chase mortal women like Zeus, or bless a chosen city like Athena. O'Connor turns that around by letting Poseidon tell his own story...and we still don't get that close to him, but that's on purpose.

So Poseidon tells us how he, Hades, and Zeus split the world three ways -- the earth would be common to them all, but Hades had the underworld, Zeus the sky, and Poseidon the seas, as it must be. And then he tells the stories of some of his children -- as he says, "my children have tended to be monstrous" -- from the cyclopes Polyphemos to Theseus, and other stories, of how he contended with Athena for the patronage of the city that would become Athens, of how he and others rebelled against Zeus, of his dream of being free of his father Kronos's belly. And through it all, Poseidon is distant, mercurial, changing -- like the deep sea itself.

This book has a palette filled with deep greens and blues, as it must -- and O'Connor's art is both supple and muscular to show the battles and confrontations of this most contentious of gods. These books are really good -- O'Connor provides extensive annotations to his pages, plus thoughtful afterwords on the sources and stories, plus lists of further reading, plus discussion questions (suitable for book club or classroom), so you really couldn't ask for more. These are some of the deepest, best stories the human race has, and O'Connor is doing a magnificent job of bringing them to new life.

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