Eric Shanower: “Age of Bronze: Betrayal, Part One”

Age of Bronze: Betrayal, Part One

Graphic Novel
Pages: 175
First Published: 2008

Synopsis: Winner of two Eisner Awards (Best Writer/Artist 2001 and 2003) and the Gran Guinigi (Best Serial Comic 2006), Eric Shanower presents part one of Betrayal, the third of seven volumes telling the complete story of the Trojan War.

High King Agamemnon is bent on conquering Troy and recovering his brother’s beautiful wife, Helen. But first, Agamemnon’s army must pass the island of Tenedos. Spears fly and men die. When the dust settles, the young warrior Achilles finds himself another step closer to his tragic fate.

During the feast of victory, a snake bites Philoktetes on the foot. His cries of pain are so loud and long that the army can’t stand having him around. Leave it to Odysseus to find a solution to the problem, a solution that satisfies the army but doesn’t sit quite so well with Philoktetes.

Meanwhile, the Trojans muster their strength. Happy events such as Hektor’s marriage to Andromache merely mask the fear growing behind Troy’s walls. Can a peace embassy from Agamemnon’s army hold out any hope? Even Helen dreads to face what lies ahead.

Drawn from the myths and legends of centuries, Betrayal continues the tapestry of drama and action known as the Trojan War. Eric Shanower’s historically accurate illustrations and taut storytelling propel this greatest of ancient epics into the twenty-first century.

Note: I am reviewing this book, Volume 3A in the series, because the artist sent me a free copy of Volume 3B. You may or may not be interested to know that, while my local library decided to shelve the previous volume in the children’s section, this one they shelved in the teen section. I think that’s a much better fit for the series as a whole but I have no idea why the difference. Because this volume has swearing in it … ???

My Thoughts: Age of Bronze in its entirety is projected to be seven volumes long, which makes me worry that I am going to run out of things to say about it. I have a terrible vision of my review of Volume 7 being nothing but critiques of how a character’s eyebrows are drawn. My general comments about this volume are basically the same as my comments about Sacrifice – I am still impressed by the research and intrigued by the depictions of the characters, and although neither the writing nor the art are that appealing to me on their own, combined they somehow created a book that I couldn’t put down.

· American comic books don’t have the best reputation when it comes to their portrayals of female characters and I admit that I was nervous about that when I began reading this series. I am happy to say that I have been pleasantly surprised. A decent number of female characters – including Thetis, Cressida, Andromache, and Hecuba – look like they’ll be getting larger roles than usual, and characters like Helen and Cassandra who usually get a decent amount of screen time look like they’ll be keeping it. (I’m curious to see how Thetis being in the Greek camp the whole time plays out.) This volume also passes the Bechdel Test pretty cleanly, and features at least as much male nudity as female nudity, sorry if that’s an odd thing to point out!

· Some of the more comic moments are awesome – for instance, I cracked up when Agamemnon got irritated at Palamedes for closing the door properly – but some feel out of place. Possible spoiler!! There’s a moment where Achilles steals a rock from a woman he’s chasing and it reads a bit like slapstick, but on the very next page the woman falls down a hole and dies, which is decidedly not slapstick. The different tones in this scene don’t fit well together and just felt awkward to me. Happily, I’ve only noticed this sort of thing a couple times.

· Polyxena and Troilus have a scene together and the two Ajaxes have a scene together. I mention these only because it’s neat to see characters who are usually pretty minor getting scenes to themselves.

· There are two things in this volume that I suspect might make more sense to me if I had read Volume 1. The first is the scene in which Agamemnon just plain forgets to invite Achilles to the feast that all the other Greeks are attending. He forgot Achilles? How do you forget the best warrior in your army? The second is that I can see Shanower trying to give Helen some angst about the war, but it doesn’t feel very organic to the character. Maybe there’s some information in earlier scenes that would fix these issues for me.

· Possible spoiler!!? So Akamas finds himself in a strange room in the depths of enemy territory with a woman who won’t answer his questions. He responds to this situation by having sex with her and then falling asleep. Dude, I do not think this is the best strategy if you want to make it to the end of this war.

· If I sound less than enthusiastic today, it’s only because I am a terrible reviewer who is writing this entry several weeks after actually reading the book. But in all honesty, I enjoyed this volume even more than the previous one. I read it in one sitting and loved its super creepy cliffhanger! Now that the war is fully about to begin, I’m really excited to read the next volume.

Official Web Site: Age of Bronze
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