by Eric Shanower
Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships
Image Comics, July, 2001.
Hardcover, 223 pages.
Ages 10 and up
A Thousand Ships is a graphic novel retelling the events that led up to the Trojan War. It originally appeared in serial form in the Age of Bronze comic book series in nine issues. A Thousand Ships may be in graphic novel form, but it belongs in serious libraries for several reasons. First, it is the result of consultations with many of the leading scholars in the fields of classical studies and archaeological digs. The bibliography alone is extensive. Also included is a very helpful pronunciation guide for all one hundred fifty one names that appear in the story. Just as appreciated are the genealogical charts of both the Achaeans and the Trojan royal family. A map of the area during the late Bronze Age appears in the front of the book. The author's essay in the Afterword section is also invaluable in understanding the story line and probably should be read before delving into the story. Drawings or cartoons of complicated story lines are useful in identifying all the characters, as well as for clarifying their points of view. For the reader who must mentally sort out all of the plots and subplots complicated by unfamiliar names and places, A Thousand Ships, is an excellent reference book.
Eric Shanower has given us a thrilling book presented in the graphic novel mode. Every important detail of the conflict to come is explored and illustrated in careful detail. As he points out in his Afterword, the costumes, hairstyles and racial types have all been faithfully recreated. The author had no desire to characterize the persons in the story as a bunch of people walking around in Greek temples wearing battle helmets. Instead, as closely as research could reveal, the Achaeans look different from the Trojans in costume, hairstyle and somewhat in features. Weapons of the period are also shown in detail, as are the ships which made up the fabled fleet. All of this will give the reader a great sense of the setting of the conflict to come and will provide an accurate insight into the reasons that would incite such a war. We are introduced to the handsome but impulsive and foolish Paris, the sly, tricky Odysseus and the confused Helen, along with the cuckolded Menelaus.
Although Eric Shanower has presented us with a graphic novel that will compel us to read it in one reading, and will clarify so many heretofore aspects of classical literature, this is very definitely not a book to buy for your ten year-old niece or nephew in hopes that they will now be grounded in the all-important classical literary themes. Mr. Shanower has written an earnest and honest rendition of Homer, and he has not shied away from the occasional promiscuous sexual adventures of the fabled Greeks. Sexual encounters and even the childbirth practices of Bronze Age Greeks are graphically illustrated. One can only hope that Mr. Shanower will pen a version of the same tale for those of more tender years. He has written for children before, and we can only hope that he will not ignore them in this endeavor of presenting the cultures that have so profoundly influence our lives every day.
--Sarah Reaves White
Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the Oct. - Nov., 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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