New Best Friend

John Hodgman is wonderful for many reasons. But the latest reason is, for admittedly personal reasons, perhaps the most wonderfulest of all: getting the New York Times Book Review to give him space for a monster review of comic book anthologies.

An intriguing excerpt:

“There are no gods in the three volumes of Age of Bronze (Image; prices vary), Eric Shanower’s triumphant illustrated fusion of the many legends of the Trojan War.

‘I’ve gone so far as to shove the gods offstage,’ he explains in an afterword to the first in his proposed seven-volume series. ‘Not an original move on my part in retelling this story; it’s been in and out of fashion for centuries — but a decision which I think is relevant to this 21st-century world where so many are quick to look beyond themselves for answers or to assign blame.’

Instead, Shanower draws on intensive archaeological research and his own uncanny psychological insight to depict an ancient world that is wholly, tragically human.

Paris is not merely an abrasive, kidnapping cad; his tragedy begins when he realizes as a young cowherd that he is actually a prince of Troy who had been left for dead. It’s his desire to prove his worth as a royal that causes his horrible overreach: the capture of Helen — half seduction, half abduction — that leads to the disastrous war with the Achaeans. Meanwhile, you could make an argument that Agamemnon launches the thousand ships to retrieve Helen either for reasons of antique honor or out of a calculating desire to plunder Troy’s riches. But somehow Shanower locates both desires in his version of the Achaean high king, and he is transformed, suddenly, from competing literary interpretations into an actual person.

But it was always Achilles’ choice that made the story seem as remote as the moon. A choice between a long life that goes unsung and an early death that is remembered forever? Unless you are 19, this is a no-brainer. But Achilles, of course, chases glory. And in one of many expertly drawn battle sequences, we see Achilles’ skill and recklessness as he chases a young woman, the sister of a slain foe, almost playfully to the edge of a chasm. And then, in that queasy, silent stop-time that only comics can achieve, he watches her stumble, fall and die. It’s a stupid, pointless death — one of many in the book — and in her fragility we suddenly appreciate the desire to somehow ennoble life’s nasty, brutish shortness, even, irrationally, through war.”


  1. He’s so cute…even tho I’m the matriarch of a Mac family, he makes me feel a whole lot less hostile to my work PC. Maybe not what the Mac folks were hoping for, but sometimes these things backfire.

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