Ares: Bringer of War: A great new take on an old tale

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAres: Bringer of War by George O'ConnorAres: Bringer of War by George O’Connor

Ares: Bringer of War is George O’Connor’s sixth title in his OLYMPIANS series of graphic retellings of Greek myths for younger readers. Short take? I’m wondering why the Hades I don’t own the first five, an oversight I will quickly rectify. Long take below . . .

I absolutely loved this book. Beginning with its opening segment on the distinction to be made between the two gods of War in the Greek pantheon: Athena and Ares. O’Connor begins with Athena, whom he calls the “the goddess of martial skill. Of formations, of strategy. Of training realized and wisdom applied.” And the art presents just such a calculating image of war, with its highly symmetrical depiction of Greek soldiers, their feet, spears, bodies, and shields precisely aligned, all against a cool blue background. But war isn’t always so neatly organized; it is often “chaotic, unpredictable… maddening. Formations can break.” And we see this not only in the soldiers’ stances — their feet and spears now awry, but also in the text boxes, which had been neatly symmetrical but now are more randomly dispersed. Preparing us for the fantastic entrance of Ares, who “takes the field” when madness and fear and chaos arise. Ares — “war insatiate. His armor blazing like fire, dealing death. He is flanked by his sons, Deimos and Phobos, fear and panic.” Here, the hue changes to the appropriate blood-red, text boxes break across panel borders, faces and bodies are cut off by boundary lines, we veer between close ups and pull-backs — the visual is chaos embodied and makes for a spectacular entrance.

19 20From the battlefield, we move to the more aloof (shown again by the color scheme and cleaner, sparser panels) halls of Olympus, where the anger, bitterness, and hatred run no less deep seemingly than between the Greeks and the Trojans, though it is expressed more in sharp retorts and insults than in blows (those eventually come even in Zeus’ throne room). This pattern repeats itself throughout the rest of the 70+ pages of story, as we move back and forth between bloody battles before the walls of Troy and less-bloody battles between the bickering gods. We see some of the Trojan War’s great highlights — Achilles taking on the river god, Diomedes wounding both Aphrodite and Ares himself, Patroclus donning Achilles’ armor, Achilles’ killing Hector, Paris killing Achilles, and others.

The art is consistently spot-on with what it is depicting: vibrantly powerful when needed, pulled back as required. The characters as well are sharply depicted, with facial expressions and body posture doing yeoman’s work in conveying emotions, either enhancing dialogue or simply standing in its stead. The dialogue and descriptive text is generally strong, though every now and then the language (mostly a single word or two) was a little jarringly modern. O’Connor also added a nice bit of emotional depth with the rocky father-son relationship between Ares and Zeus, especially at the very end.

After the story, O’Connor has a few pages of author notes starting with his general approach and then a not-quite page by page/panel-by-panel section of what he calls “G(r)eek notes” that further explain terms, characters, or the artist’s intent. These are followed by some discussion questions, a bibliography, and a suggested reading list.

Ares was a wholly impressive work. It certainly would be a great depiction of Greek myths to younger readers, but I think older readers will also thoroughly enjoy this. I found it so impressive that the other ones will soon be wending their way to my house. Highly recommended.


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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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3 comments

  1. I’m thinking that this might be a good graphic novel to share with my youth writing workshop, since it demonstrates so many good qualities of story-telling.

  2. Not at all a bad idea!

  3. Brad Hawley /

    This series is brilliant. Thanks for reviewing this latest volume, Bill!

    Here’s my review of the first book in the series:

    http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/zeus-and-the-olympians/

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