Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (First Second)

The Goddess of Love ain’t no angel in this latest volume in George O’Connor’s Olympians series.



78 pgs., color; $9.99
(W / A: George O’Connor)
The biggest surprise to me in George O’Connor’s latest entry in his Olympians series is its embrace of girl power, from the three Charities (Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia) who act as a (sorry!) Greek chorus to the babealicious Aphrodite herself, who pops out of the ocean wearing a sea-green gown that, with a little help from the Graces, wouldn’t be out of place at the red carpet at the Oscars. Honestly, I can just see her making a fool out of some dude with a microphone, while letting everyone in TV land bask in her lusciousness. O’Connor’s Poseidon book was all brawny thighs and bulging triceps, so it’s nice to see that he can really shift gears when the material demands it.
It’s a truism that the Greeks created their Gods in their own image, endowing them with human traits like lust and jealousy, so why shouldn’t a modern retelling cast the story of Aphrodite in terms of our modern culture? No reason at all, of course, and that’s one reason O’Connor’s Aphrodite: Goddess of Love works so well. Another is that he’s more than willing to have fun with these characters, who were hardly plaster saints in previous renditions of their doings (even in the fairly sanitized versions we read in junior high). To keep things kid-safe, O’Connor leaves some things ambiguous (as in, exactly what body part was removed from Ouranous by Cronus and his adamantine sickle) but there’s plenty of misbehavior to attract any rebellious child (or adult).
Aphrodite goes back to the beginning of time and gives us the Greek origin myth ("In the time before time, there was nothing, Kaos. From out of Kaos came Ge, or Gaea, our Mother Earth.") accomplished by some really impressive art (the second and third pages are made up of three horizontal frames that splash across two pages) that makes you feel the primeval forces at work. O’Connor, as he generally does, also reminds me that I don’t know Greek mythology as well as I think—and tell the truth, do you remember who the Hekatonchieres were, or the parentage of the Cyclopes? He provides a handy chart at the front of the book (an interactive version is available on his web page), and notes in the back, to help those interested in filling in the gaps in their knowledge). Other extras in this volume include two pages of author’s notes, questions for discussion, and character pages for Aphrodite and the Graces.
But enough about education—the Greek myths offer great stories, and several demonstrating the power of Aphrodite are included in this volume. She’s no angel, that’s for sure, and reacts to being forced to marry someone she doesn’t love as any modern woman might. In ancient times, as today, love was and is a powerful force, and it can be destructive as well as constructive. O’Connor works two self-contained stories into Aphrodite: those of Pygmalion and Galatea, and Eris and the golden apple (which includes some tabloid-TV-worthy dialogue from Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena). No, the Trojan War is not included in this volume, but it’s foreshadowed.
Aphrodite: Goddess of Love is published by First Second. You can see a preview here. | Sarah Boslaugh

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