On the frontispiece of Olympians, vol. 3: Hera: The Goddes and Her Glory, is an Olympian God Family Tree. And it is barely legible. This is through no fault of the author. The fault is because the family tree of the Greek Gods is a mess. People marrying their siblings or grandchildren or cousins; Zeus having innumerable children each by a different woman, some divine, some mortal – who can keep it straight? This complicated history is reflected in O’Connor’s tale of Hera, queen of the gods. It is really a tale of Hera, Hercules, and various other characters who cross paths with these two.
Zeus, the king of the gods, wants Hera to be his queen. At first she refuses, knowing that Zeus is not able to be faithful. But finally she relents on the condition that she also be his wife (I guess these two things are not related) and so requiring him to be with only her. Of course, Zeus is unable to do that, and so Hera continually takes her anger and frustration out on his mistresses (it’s all very tasteful and implied – no actual nudity).
Hercules was the child of one of these unions. Hera only agrees to let him live if he performs ten tasks for her. The rest of the book describes Hercules, his life, and the tasks he performs. While the story goes back to Hera in the end, one is left with the feeling that her story was merely the set up for Hercules’ story.
Despite O’Connor’s afterword, where he explains that Hera is stereotyped as a shrew and that she is more than that, she really comes across as just a shrew. I know that the Greek gods are a reflection of their time, when women’s roles were more proscribed and their power was very limited, but if you don’t read the afterword (and really, how many kids do) you are left with a negative impression of Hera. In the opening scene, Hera complains that a monster attack made her “almost [break] a nail.” Really? You want to convey Hera with more depth and that’s the first image of her you give us? I wish that O’Connor had figured out a way to put more context directly in the story, maybe set the stage a little more.
This is the third volume in O’Connor’s series of graphic novels on the Olympic gods. He has nice clear drawings that read well. I like his choice of viewpoints and layout for the panels. It is a better story of Hercules than of Hera but since the labors she made him perform made him famous, their stories are inextricably intertwined.
Middle school and up.
Olympians, vol. 3: Hera: The Goddess and her Glory
by George O’Connor
First Second, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: Grade 9 and up