BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Zeus grows up to defeat his power-hungry father, Kronos.
PROS: Based on an interesting mythology; engages the reader.
CONS: Characterizations are kept at a minimum.
BOTTOM LINE: A worthwhile graphic novel that captures the excitement of Greek mythology.
Zeus: King of the Gods is the first graphic novel in the new Olympians series, George O’Connor’s 12-part retelling of Greek mythology. Being the first part of the sequence, it is also tasked with setting up the background of the entire series. To that end, it does a wonderful job showing how the Earth (Gaea) and Sky (Ouranos) spawned the Titans and the ensuing conflicts that emerge between them. Ouranos, for example, banishes some of his children to the underworld for being deformed. (The fractal-handed Hekatonchieres are particularly notable because of their creepiness.) And then there’s the power-hungry Kronos who ultimately kills his father and declares himself lord of all the known universe. Gaea prophesizes that Kronos will in turn be defeated by his child, just as he defeated Ouranos. So Kronos does what any self-respecting god would do: he eats his children. But his sixth child, Zeus, escapes this cruel fate. Zeus: King of the Gods is the story of how Zeus grows up to defeat Kronos.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that this longstanding mythos is ripe with dramatic tension. The accompanying conflicts are wonderfully depicted with literally earth-shattering results by O’Connor’s artwork. What might be surprising is how immersive this graphic novel is. Credit should be given to O’Connor (who also did the artwork for Ball Peen Hammer) for teaching Greek mythology and making it memorable… something my schooling somehow failed to do. The gods simply seem more real here than they did in my youth. This could be because of the visual medium of the graphic novel, or it could be because O’Connor doesn’t dawdle on superfluous storytelling; or perhaps both. Yet at the same time, my tastes in fiction (of admittedly longer form) had me wishing that the characters were more fleshed out. Characterizations here are kept at a simple minimum while the story drives the plot to its conclusion, though again this is perhaps because this first part is additionally tasked with setting the stage. Future stories in the series will tell.
Several pages of extras give additional background information on the gods, the making of this series, as well as providing additional bibliographical information (for both younger and older readers) for those wishing to explore further. I found the family tree particularly handy, as I was often referring to it to double-check the gods’ relationships with one another. Considering these useful extras with the engrossing story, Zeus: King of the Gods is definitely a worthwhile graphic novel.