The sun rises over the cliffs of Mount Ida, revealing a scatting of small farms among carefully tended olive trees. Farmers are walking over their lands, and a young man is sleeping in the grass while his cows graze nearby. Little knowing that 10 years of tragedy and turmoil for his land and family are spread out just over the horizon, Paris dozes. Breaking the spell of this peaceful scene, a delegation from King Priam of Troy gallops into Paris’ father’s paddock, demanding the family’s best bull as a victor’s prize for the King’s upcoming games. Angry over the King’s unreasonable demands on his family, Paris vows to journey to Troy, compete in the games, and win the bull back as a sacrifice to the Gods. And so one of the most important stories of Greek history is set in motion, with a hot-headed teenager escaping the farm where he was brought up to look for fame and glory in the big city. Paris gets to Troy where he soon finds himself face-to-face with King Priam, forcing Paris’ farmer father to reveal that the boy who is competing for the prize bull is in fact a long-lost son of the Trojan royal house. Now a prince of Troy, Paris’ youthful confidence and tendency to brag aren’t doing him any favors in the complex political maneuverings of the court around him. He craves action, and soon enough finds it in a visit to the house of Menelaus of Sparta, husband of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. Shanower’s story moves forward relentlessly, each moment falling into place like a puzzle piece to make up the story of the rush of events that led to the Trojan War. A teacher of mine once explained that the crux of Greek tragedy lies in the audience’s knowledge of the terrible fate that awaits the characters, and our feeling of being powerless to prevent their inevitable plunge into self-destruction. Shanower certainly captures that sense of men and women caught up in a web of events that is far beyond their vision or control, and it is fascinating and poignant to watch fate steer them without much foreknowledge down their ordained path, one step at a time. A Thousand Ships is a much better read than The Illiad in my opinion, a nice blend of myth and history, the familiar and the strange. The series is intended for adult and older teen readers, and thus has its fair share of sex scenes and nudity, but nothing is gratuitous or out of place within the flow of the story.
Age of Bronze, vol. 1: A Thousand Ships
By Eric Shanower
Image Comics 2001