Age of Bronze, Vol. 1: A Thousand Ships - Eric Shanower I waffle on whether to switch my shelving from "mythologies" to "historical fiction" since Shanower - like Wolfgang Petersen in the execrable "Troy" - removes the divine elements from the tale entirely, which has the unfortunate effect of reducing the entire story to seven seasons (this is volume one of seven) of "The West Wing," a political soap opera. I'm put in mind of Star Wars, which went from the epic opening in episode IV - "It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire." to the limp noodle of episode I - "Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute."

And, while I can accept the physical removal of the gods, Shanower has also removed their spiritual presence. There's no sense of the religious world these characters inhabit. Thus, the famous Judgment of Paris is a dream he has where Aphrodite promises him the most beautiful woman in the world - Helen of Sparta - and when he has the chance to make that dream come true, he takes it. (On a positive note, the character of Paris - a self-centered, spoiled, willful teen-ager - is powerfully and well represented.)

If you liked "Troy" (and don't worry, I won't hold it against you; many would look askance at my favorite films :-) or enjoy the subgenre of literature that reinterprets myths realistically, then you might enjoy Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships and its brothers. Shanower takes all the conflicting myths that surround the Trojan War and refashions a coherent narrative, and his artwork is stunning. It's nearly impossible to draw a distinctive face for every character in the saga but Shanower manages to make most of them so - Agamemnon has a Simon Legree mustache and beard, Odysseus has male-pattern baldness, Priam's face is particularly distinctive:

Image of Priam from Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships

It's not perfect - the women tend to all look alike as do the sons of Priam (which may be inadvertent irony reflecting Priam and Hecuba's difficulties in keeping their brood apart) but it's a good effort and careful reading can usually keep everyone seperate.

I'll probably pick up the second volume because I do like the artwork and, while the story hasn't drawn me in (which is, in the end, my chief problem), I am interested in how Shanower demythologizes the tale.