Age of Bronze: Book One “A Thousand Ships” Eric Shanower

A Thousand ShipsEric Shanower’s Age of Bronze is a retelling of the epic Trojan War in the comic book format.  While there have been many modern retellings of the Trojan War, Age of Bronze is by far the most comprehensive, thorough, and ambitious.  Shanower does not just utilize Homer as his source, but incorporates episodes of the war as told by the Greek playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; the Roman writers Virgil and Ovid; and even William Shakespeare, among others.  If you follow the who’s, what’s and where’s of the Trojan War as set out by these writers (especially the Greek playwrights), you’ll notice they are often in conflict with one and other.  Shanower, with great deftness, reconciles these accounts and their timelines and makes them flow with ease.

A Thousand Ships is a collection of the first nine single-issue comics, presented as one volume.  In this volume the young shepherd Paris is revealed to be a lost Trojan prince, Achilles unusual upbringing is depicted, and the rivalry between the Mycenae king Agamemnon and the Trojan king Priam is explained.  This rivalry comes to a head when the beautiful Helen, wife of Meneleus, king of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon, runs off with the handsome and charming Paris.  This event gives Agamemnon the impetus to go to war with Troy, thus Helen is described as “the face that launched a thousand ships.”

If Age of bronze were a movie, it would probably be R-rated.  There are some definitely some adult themes and situations, so parents be forewarned.  Shanower explains, “Well, I like to say, the Trojan War began with sex and it ended in violence, so if you have any squeamishness about either of those things, this is probably not the series for you.”  Further, “I’m trying to show human nature, why people did all these horrible things, what they were motivated to do, and, in the horrible situations they’re put in, how they deal with the decisions they’ve made. And how just fate carries them along, and how they react to that.”  (Achilles at the Gates! , 2004) If you are either not troubled by such depictions or can look past them, this is an excellent series; well written and expertly drawn.  Highly recommended.

Link to the quoted interview: http://www.archaeology.org/online/interviews/shanower.html

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