Are you looking for some graphic novels on mythology? Each book in Capstone Publishing’s Universal Myth series is a collection of myths centered around a common theme. Dawn of Time covers creation myths, End of Days doomsday myths, Cleansing the World flood myths, and Warring Gods conflict between gods. While each collection includes at least one myth from one of the major pantheons– Norse, Greek, and Egyptian–they also include myths from less well-known ones, such as a variety from African nations, Native American tribes, Chinese, and Sumerian. Each volume includes critical thinking questions, a list of books for further reading, and a glossary. The fact that the series includes pantheons beyond the main ones as well as supplementary materials indicate quite a bit of promise, but the series, as a whole, does not quite fulfill its potential.
Mythology can be fascinating, with insightful stories, but these books frequently shortchange the storytelling. When the collection is on point, the result is a short, engaging telling that flows relatively well. However, at times, the brevity prevents the stories and cast from being fully developed, and as a result, some of the stories can be confusing to read or even inaccurate.
One example is the story of how Loki is chained. In the original myth, Loki is restrained by chains made from his son Nari’s entrails, but End of Days portrays Loki chained in ordinary chains. Whether this was done to conserve space or out of ignorance, it further reduces the quality. Another example comes from Warring Gods: there is a myth from Babylon where the gods are fighting after the death of the leader, but not everyone is identified and it’s unclear what they are fighting for. Each story has an introductory section that occasionally provides useful context, but that is not consistent from story to story.
Cheesy dialogue throughout the books also disrupts the story’s flow. For example, in Cleansing the World, a character has to face the consequences of stealing from one of the gods. Instead of a serious death scene, the character screams “Ahh” as his executioner raises his sword behind him. The dialogue adds an air of humor that does not seem appropriate to the stories being told.
The series does not have the same artist for each volume, and the art’s quality fluctuates over the course of the series. Dawn of Time is the weakest: the characters’ poses are stiff, the colors are dull, and the vague backgrounds do little to contribute to a sense of place. The other books have stronger art, but there are still points where the characters’ poses are stiff and awkward or the perspective does not fit with the narrative. The font used throughout the series can be hard to read; it looks carved, and the shape and relatively small size can make it hard to read the words.
The concept behind Universal Myths is a good one, but the inconsistency makes it difficult to recommend. If educators want to use one of the collections, supplementary materials would be necessary to provide additional context. Capstone Publishing recommends it for grade levels 3-9; the series does not get overly gory or sexual, so younger readers would be fine with the series. The fact that these myths are portrayed in such a basic way suggests that students older than fifth grade on are less likely to find this interesting. Libraries developing recreational collections might want to seek out other comic portrayals of myths.
Universal Myths Series
Cleansing the World: Flood Myths Around the World
by Blake Hoena
Art by Silvio Ob
Dawn of Time: Creation Myths Around the World
by Nel Yomtov
Art by Dante Lividini
End of Days: Doomsday Myths Around the World
by Blake Hoena
Art by Felipe Kroll
Warring Gods: Immortal Battle Myths Around the World
by Nel Yomtov
Art by Ray Dillon
Capstone Press, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 8-14