Helen. Odysseus. Achilles. Do these name ring a bell? They should. After all, they’re part of one of the oldest and most enduring historical legend of our civilization, the War of Troy.
This is the story which Eric Shanower, an out creator better known for his delightful Oz graphic novels, has undertaken to retell for the comic book medium in his Age of Bronze series. A huge amount of research has gone into the production of this series, and it shows. Shanower draws every little object as it looked at the time, at least to the best of the current knowledge. Even the physical appearances of the characters is coherent with the pottery, murals and various representations which have survived over the last three thousand years.
With a cast of -litterally- hundreds, Shanower has managed to make each character recognizable (you can see Paris in my gallery). Their psychological characteristics are also well-defined, and, in fact, central to the story, since Shanower has chosen to show this East-against-West war from the human side, with human emotions motivating the actions of the characters. Gods are spoken of and “used” as a rationalization for actions (something which modern-day humans are also guilty of…), but never shown.
While same-sex love does not happen very often (far less than in other Greek myths and legends. See the book Lovers’ Legends for more about that subject), it is not forgotten. The legendary love between Achilles and Patroklus has been shown in issue #14, in a tender scene which contrasts with the savage battles shown in other issues. One of the most bloody issue yet published was the Age of Bronze Special #1, a recounting of the story of the house of Atreus, which two important characters of the Trojan war, Agamemnon and Menelaus, are part of.
Anthropophagy, child-killing, blasphemes and other pleasant happenings compose this sorry tale—gods do appear there, since the story is treated as a legend by itself. But amid the blood, some fleeting love can be found, for example between Pelops, son of the infamous Tantalus, and Poseidon.
Age of Bronze is another example of the diversity of contemporary comics. Shanower is doing with the War of Troy what Jason Lutes is doing with pre-WWII Berlin. That is, recreating the past through believable characters, in a setting made very realistic by the research done by the author. Of course, the advantage Age of Bronze has over Berlin is that it’s full of half-naked men in the prime of life. Just another incentive to buy this wonderful series.
Two collections have already been published. Book 1 and Book 2 are available from Amazon.