Campfire Books has been putting out an increasingly interesting array of graphic novels lately that deal with mythology in various cultures, and this one by writer Ryan Foley and illustrator Jayakrishnan K. P. is the dense, but fascinating, tale of the origin myths behind the Gods of Olympus. Zeus and the Rise of the Olympians tracks the myth of the creation of the world, and resonates with the theme of the “son overtaking the father” that comes into play in so many Greek stories. The graphic novel — which is gorgeously drawn and inked and really captures the sense of being in a world of gods — explains the story of the rise of Cronus over Ouranous, and then the rise of Zeus over Cronus, and the birth of the Golden Age.
Like many, I know the story, but I think I have known the simplified story. Here, Foley brings other details into focus and, using the technique of a Greek teacher recounting the story to her students, lets us know that much of the story is still shrouded in the mystery of the gods. We have to accept, for example, that Cronus swallows his children but they don’t die (and grow in his being to become the Olympians). Even the hero of the story, Zeus (looking like some powerful super hero of DC comics), and the villain, Cronus, are complicated creatures, with strengths and insecurities brought to the surface by this book’s story.
Some years, I teach The Lightning Thief as a novel, and I have a stack of Greek Mythology books ready as additional resources. This graphic novel will surely join the pack, and while it may be a bit tricky for the casual reader (the text is sort of dense for a graphic novel), I can see some of my stronger readers with high interest in mythology eating it up (and hopefully, not spitting it out, as Cronus did).
Peace (in the myth),