Punderworld, vol. 1 

PunderworldA 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
ISBN: 9781534320727
Publisher Age Rating: T+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Croatian

Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and War (Tales of Great Goddesses)

Young readers won’t realize they’re actually absorbing enough information to give them a head start in any school’s Greek mythology unit while reading this fun and educational book. 

Readers first are introduced to Mount Olympus and each of the different characters that will be found throughout the book, including what they are most known for. This gives the reader a nice section to flip back to if they forget who someone is, as there are a lot of characters involved and some have tricky names. The book is organized into seven sections with a glossary at the end, a select bibliography for those who want to read even deeper into Greek mythology, and a little about the author and illustrator. 

The book goes through Athena’s life chronologically with vivid images and descriptions of how she was born, the chaos and trouble she caused, and conflicts she had with other Gods and mortals. Many other Gods and notables are featured, such as Poseidon, Medusa, Perseus, and Zeus. The most famous of stories are included, like the Trojan Horse, Odysseus’s adventures, and the story of Arachne, the weaver who was turned into a spider. 

This is truly a wonderful, funny, and light look at Greek mythology. Yet, it has enough depth to provide readers with as much information about demigods, notable mortals, gods, and goddesses as any non-fiction children’s book on the topic. Author Imogen Greenberg and illustrator Isabel Greenberg are a London based pair who’s styles work seamlessly together. The artwork is colorful. Dramatic purples and blues are used to create swirling seas around Poseidon, bright oranges are used around Athena to show her anger, and pages are kept simple when explanations are given. Pages feature large panels, some spanning two whole pages, with dialogue and text found in an understandable flow. 

Overall, this is a well done adaptation of Greek mythology into an enjoyable comic. It would be a great recommendation for students who are studying Greek mythology at school and are looking for a fun read, or for children who are fans of Rick Riordan’s novels. It gives a balanced view of Athena by including her strengths, weaknesses, and mistakes that she made along the way. She may have been a Goddess, but this book makes it clear to the reader that no one is perfect. Anyone can make a bad decision. It is very age appropriate, as the stories have been tailored to omit some details, such as why Medusa was turned into a gorgon, without it feeling like there is anything missing from explanations. Any children’s collection would benefit from this addition. 

Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and War (Tales of Great Goddesses)
By Imogen Greenberg
Art by Isabel Greenberg
Amulet Books, 2021
ISBN: 9781419748592
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)

The Odyssey

Odysseus can’t catch a break. After offending the god Poseidon, he endures 20 years of challenges and misfortune. Trapped by a Cyclops, shipwrecked in a supernatural storm, and ensnared in the caves of a nymph, Odysseus must overcome these obstacles and more, while, back home, his wife and son fend off suitors hoping to take his throne. His attempts to navigate home are filled with magic, prophecies, and assistance — as well as hindrances — from the gods. His homecoming is a bloody battle against the traitors hoping to steal the kingdom from him.

Author/illustrator Gareth Hinds bring Homer’s classic tale of Odysseus’s plight to life in this breathtaking graphic adaptation. Hinds explains in his final notes that, although he prefers to break from realism, he included just enough historical touches to give authenticity. He rewrote much of the material, but used direct quotations when it was appropriate. This ability to combine newly imagined material while also staying true to Homer’s ancient poem will delight readers regardless of their familiarity with the original work.

Hinds’ illustrations range from quiet, moody panels to wild, action-filled battle scenes. Nearly every watercolor-and-pencil panel could serve as a standalone artwork. Hinds uses clever storytelling techniques throughout, including a mini-comic-within-a-comic to narrate a minstrel’s song about the Trojan War. When the reader sees an image of a Trojan horse, the nature of the song is clear. This creative framing device is just one example of many wonderful surprises in this book.

This graphic adaptation of an English Lit staple will obviously have its place in the classroom and would be a great companion to anyone studying Homer’s epic poem, but will also be enjoyed by fans of ancient mythology. Rick Riordan’s blurb on the back cover is no coincidence — hand this one to teens who love the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and are looking for their next great read.

The Odyssey
by Gareth Hinds
ISBN: 9780763642662
Candlewick, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: 12 and up