Sunday, January 5, 2014

Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (Olympians) by George O'Connor

Great art? Naturally. Humorous but insightful character development? Of course. But that's not what makes George O'Connor my favorite go-to for mythology. Here as in other volumes, he is able to cut to the heart of the conflicting myths and find the essence that unifies them; in doing so, he makes the origin of an enigmatic figure clear.

Is Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus or born of the essence of the castrated Uranus? (And boy, if you didn't get that he was castrated before, the graphics are going to make that very clear.) And how is it that Eros was born from both Chaos *and* Aphrodite? Sit back and smile as George explains it all.
Aphrodite in classical myth is easily the least sympathetic of all the Olympians as she and her mischievous son/male counterpart Eros ruthlessly inspire unrequited love and destroy marriages. In a heated exchange with Hera, Aphrodite succinctly sums up why she's probably the deity we want to side with after all. Three decades of closely reading mythology, and I had to smile as I finally saw an essential cultural tension played out not by Apollo and Dionysus but Hera and Aphrodite. Read their brief exchange, then go back and re-read the rest of the graphic novel; suddenly Aphrodite is much more sympathetic.

This is not the most romantic of the series- that honor goes to Hades- but we do get to see more of the continuing love affair that has been playing out since the first volume. Zeus, the most sensitive to Eros, at the end of the day has one true love: his power. However alluring Aphrodite- or Thetis- may be, he will do nothing to compromise his beloved. When you see Zeus act as wedding planner, you've got to know that something else is up.

An exciting midway point for a fantastic series. Highly recommended for fans of Greek mythology.

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