A workaholic god of the Underworld pining for a lively, but sheltered earth goddess—it’s a tale as old as time. In this retelling of the classic Greek myth, Hades and Persephone’s mutual crush has been two centuries in the making, though there hasn’t been much headway. However, following a pep talk from Zeus, and a bit of emboldening liquor, Hades is determined to confess his feelings for her at last. Meanwhile, Persephone faces her own challenges: a controlling mother, a longing for freedom, the strain of maintaining a perpetual summer, the usual. When a meddling case of divine intervention brings the two together, what follows is a series of misadventures that sees our protagonists descend from the heavens all the way down to the dark depths of the Underworld. Revitalizing the story for a new generation, this stunning first volume of Punderworld illustrates the beginning of the relationship that forever altered the very forces of nature.
All cards on the table, the myth of Hades and Persephone is one of my favorites, so it did not take long for this comic to completely win me over. I have actually been following Punderworld since its beginning, when it mainly consisted of one-off shorts the author and illustrator, Linda Sejic, would create in-between updates on her other webcomic, Blood Stain. Revisiting the work as a complete volume was a treat, as I was able to notice certain elements, mostly design choices, that I had not noticed before.
Sejic’s artistic interpretation of the Greek pantheon is what truly brings this comic into its own. The Greek gods and goddesses have undergone numerous reimaginings throughout the years, each calling for a design that evokes familiarity, but also showcases the illustrator’s unique style and vision. Sejic balances the two perfectly, incorporating elements that give readers an immediate sense of who these characters are and an insight into their personalities. Utilizing simple color palettes through clothing for each design, such as blue and white for Zeus, black with a hint of gold trim for Hades, and a subtly watermelon-striped motif for Demeter, the creator establishes a clear connection between the presentation of these figures and their respective domains. Personally, I fell in love with the decision to give each god and goddess a “crown” that serves as an additional visual representation of their fields: Zeus with his laurel of lightning, Hades’s helm of invisibility, which appears as bone-colored horns, a crescent moon that floats above Artemis’s head, and flowers entwined in Persephone’s hair that alter based on her mood, which in turn better exemplifies her every expression. Seijic’s style excels at displaying the ethereal qualities of both the gods and the world around them, from the striking, atmospheric backgrounds to the cozy lighting of certain panels. All these elements combine to create versions of these immortal figures that stand out amongst prior iterations, while at the same time matching perfectly with this comic’s specific tone and direction.
The story itself is accessible to both newcomers and long-time lovers of Greek mythology, as it avoids throwing too much exposition at readers, but still includes small references in the background for those in the know. Sejic includes explanations of the more niche aspects of the mythology, like the laws of hospitality amongst the gods or certain festivals done in their names. While earlier versions paint the pair as captor and captive—though some will differ on Persephone’s willingness to be with Hades—the creator instead presents a more light-hearted, consensual pining stuttered with innocent misassumptions and just a bit of awkwardness. The image of a more emotionally aware, non-imposing Hades is a welcome and refreshing one, and a Persephone who breaks away from the consistent doe-eyed and naïve portrayal is a major plus. Even Demeter, who typically plays the role of overbearing helicopter parent, gains a more well-rounded and understandable characterization near the volume’s end. While not beat-for-beat accurate to the original myth, Punderworld offers a new facet on the Hades and Persephone tale, one that will interest those captivated with stories of forbidden love with a touch of comedy.
The mythological aspect of the comic may also appeal to those swept up in other retellings, such as Lore Olympus, another webcomic getting a physical release this year that follows a more modern version of the Hades and Persephone myth, or for the older fans of George O’Connor’s Olympians series, which features a more traditional interpretation.
With a publisher-given rating of T+, meaning for ages 16 and older, I would recommend purchasing this title for any young adult or adult collection. Young adults and adults alike will be charmed by the series’ rompish nature and sense of humor, which is sure to make an impression on those looking for another engaging and transformative take on this mythic power couple.
Punderworld, vol. 1
By Linda Sejic
Image Top Cow, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: T+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Croatian