Monday, April 14, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #103: Aphrodite by George O'Connor

If I were creating a series of books about the Greek gods for an audience of teenagers and other young people -- and thus subject to the whims of librarians and teachers and those annoying small-winded pressure groups of parents in our more benighted states -- I would probably stay as far away from Aphrodite as possible, because all of those folks can't stand "their kids" hearing any hint of S-E-X. Luckily, George O'Connor is not me.

His excellent series of graphic novels about the Olympians -- previously: Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon -- reaches its sixth volume with Aphrodite: Goddess of Love, the story of the hottest tamale on Olympus or any other mountain of the ancient world. (Sorry, Ishtar: it's true.) As before, O'Connor manages the very tricky and difficult job of telling his story in a way that's entirely appropriate for that young audience but hinting and nodding in the direction of adult complexities that many of his readers (including more of those kids than the meddling parents' groups would credit) will understand and think about.

Aphrodite, like the earlier Hera and Poseidon, tells an origin story and then skillfully weaves in many other myths and stories -- some in as little as a glancing panel -- instead of focusing on one major story, the way Hades and Zeus and Athena did. O'Connor does get into the biggest story that Aphrodite is part of -- the Trojan War -- at the end of this book, with the famous Judgement of Paris and Eris's golden apple. But the war itself doesn't happen before the end of this book -- O'Connor ends on what I hope is a promise to tell that story in a later book. (He still has plenty of Olympians to cover: Artemis and Apollo and Hephaistos, Hermes and Ares and, I fervently hope, Dionysos. Or he could have an all-Trojan War book; either way, I'll be there.)

Greek mythology is endlessly fascinating, particularly to the smart young audience that sees a thousand cultural references start to snap into clarity and to the slightly less obsessive types that just love great stories of larger-than-life characters. And O'Connor's graphic novels could easily be the Edith Hamilton of the current middle-school generation: he's that good, that smart, that versed in the literature, and that enthusiastic about his work and sources. I expect to see battered copies of these books brought out and read to a new generation of kids around 2030, as well: this is the real deal.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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