Review Blog

Sep 11 2019

The Iliad - a graphic novel adaptation by Gareth Hinds

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Candlewick Press 2019. ISBN: 9780763696634.
Themes: Ancient Greece, myths/ legends. Homer's epic poem, about the tenth year of the Trojan War, fought around the twelfth century BCE, has endured as one of the greatest war stories of all time, but it is more than a war story, it is one of human heroism and failings, and the interference of gods. To help understand the work, all in beautiful fine watercolours, Hinds presents us with an illustrated cast of characters, important Achaeans, mainly in blue (Greeks) and Trojans, mainly in red, explaining that each character's initial can be found worked into his armour. The other important players are the twelve Gods who are depicted in semi-transparent pastel shades.
A prologue sets the scene, explaining the modern day location of the warring armies, how the war started and the involvement of the Gods. The story picks up as the battle weary Achaeans, camped outside the fortress of Troy make offerings to appease the Gods who have brought sickness to the camp. It is seen that the Gods are angry about the refusal to ransom the daughter of Apollo's priest, taken as a war spoil by Agamemnon, the leader of the Achaeans. He agrees to give her up but claims Achilles' woman Briseis in return. A well placed footnote explains that the army had been raiding allies of Troy and that men and women became slaves, valuable 'spoils of war'. Achilles is furious and withdraws his support. The war continues with the upper hand shifting backwards and forwards between the two armies often influenced by the Gods who struggle to exert dominance over each other. Brave men die on the battlefield, their names recited, ensuring everlasting fame and honour for their families.
The famous finale between the Trojan hero Hector and Achilles is gripping, it is a bitterly fought battle vividly brought to life in the illustrations. The author's note at the end reflects on why we still read the Iliad. 'Humanity is on display with all its nobility and pettiness and violence and tenderness, it is, simply, a powerful story.'
Introducing a new readership to some of the most important works of Western literature has been the goal of Gareth Hinds' wonderful adaptations of classics such as Beowulf, the plays of Shakespeare, and this companion volume to The Odyssey. The adaptation retains the essence of the original with helpful maps and notes but some students may find it long and challenging. However, the characters are the original superheroes and the story compelling, while senior students will find it rewarding it will also appeal to action graphic fans of all ages.
Sue Speck

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