I love reading about Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, and have enjoyed reading about myths since I was a kid. The Olympians series brings the main figures of mythology to vibrant life as cartoons. These volumes by First Second and George O’Connor have reinvigorated my interest in mythology, and are sure to attract and educate people and interest an entire new generation about the ancient myths of Greece and Rome.
Is this latest volume in the series, Hades: Lord of the Dead (Olympians #4) by George O’Connor, a worthy addition, or does it fall flat? I was impressed with the overall quality of the volume, the cover, and the interior artwork. Also, though the stories of Hades and how he got his wife are legendary and well-known, this addition focuses on their meeting and developing love for each other more so than other accounts I’ve read, which made the myth seem fresh to me. As well, I enjoyed reading about how Hades’s wife, Persephone, had been the daughter of the goddess of agriculture and the harvest, Demeter. Then, she was known as Kore.
Any preteen or teen will recognize the sort of relationship Demeter has with her daughter. Demeter is portrayed as a loving but perhaps over-protective mother who watches out for her daughter and wants only the best for her, as any mother would do for her daughter. For instance, when the young teen Apollo desires to play his instrument and sing to Kore, Demeter sends him packing with a rebuff. Kore is understandably embarrassed, but Demeter says: “Embarrassed? I was only trying to protect you! You know how boys are.”
Still, when Kore finds herself suddenly in the dark underworld of Hades, she doesn’t immediately relish being away from her mother and she is at first somewhat ambivalent about whether or not she wants to be Hades’s wife. She has actually been abducted by Hades, though she has temporarily lost her memories of what happened. One moment she is on the surface of the Earth,the next, she’s been spirited away to the Real of Hades. But, Hades is not shown to be a terrible god; all the gods and goddesses were jealous, greedy, avaricious–in other words, very much human in their feelings, actions, and emotions. He gives her own quarters to live in and lets her get used to the idea, and they eventually develop a love and respect for each other.
What I also liked about this retelling of the meeting of Hades and Persephone is that Hades is not depicted as being evil, demonic, or as a villainous god. He really wasn’t one; he just was a god stuck with ruling over the realm of the dead. He is depicted as making the best of the situation, and he is no more good nor evil than any of the other gods and goddesses. That’s not to say he’s perfect by any stretch of the imagination; but, it’s easy to relate to him in the way George O’Connor and First Second presents him.
Other things I like about this book and the Olympians series is that, at the back of it, there are questions for discussion that can be used in the classroom. Also, there are further facts about the myths, and notes about the author’s feelings about the gods and goddesses. Kore, we learn, literally means “The Maiden.” The name she chooses for herself, Persephone, means “Bringer of Destruction.” This volume also gets into the myth about why we now have four seasons. I won’t tell you why, though–you can read about it for yourself when you get this fascinating and very vibrant and colorful book!
If you are a fan of myths, I highly recommend Hades: Lord of the Dead to you. Also, if you have never heard of the myth of Hades and Persephone before, this volume is a great introduction to both it and the other books in the series. You don’t need to read them in order to appreciate them, though they’re all books anyone who likes reading about Greek gods and goddesses will want to read.