Zeus: King of the Gods: Olympians, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Zeus: King of the Gods: Olympians, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Fiery start to educational graphic novel series.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Begins with Gaea, the earth mother, and covers the fall of the Titans and the rise of Zeus and the Olympians. The facts readers may miss in this more action-oriented storytelling are revisited in a generous appendix that includes an author's note, profiles of some of the gods, two pages of extra details on specific panels in the story, a discussion guide, a bibliography, and recommended reading for younger and older readers. A family tree precedes the book.

Positive Messages

Mythology is often seen as a way to mirror the more intense desires and drives of human beings and could serve as cautionary tales to mortals the way they did back when they were part of the oral tradition. The struggle for power and revenge in this volume leads to some extremely violent ends for the formerly high and mighty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are driven by a desire for power and revenge -- just look at the fierce depiction of Zeus on the book's cover. He undergoes many trials to take his rightful place, and saving his siblings is a nice gesture, but he's depicted here as driven by a lust for power. Only small gestures of good emerge, such as Rhea saving her son, Zeus, from her husband, Kronos -- but that only fulfills a curse Gaea set upon him, that one of his children will take him down. Metis also helps Zeus but wants to rule with him in return.

Violence

One of the more disturbing aspects of Greek mythology is  Kronos eating his own children. Oddly, they eventually burst forth unscathed. Also, battles between Titans and Zeus rage for most of the book. Kronos fights with his giant sickle, killing his father, Ouranos, to take power. Then he fights against Zeus and his lightning bolts. Creatures with 100 hands, the enormous dragon-like Kampe who tries to roast Zeus, and cyclopes with their one eye may seem a bit scary. Many creatures fall to Tartaros and are imprisoned there. A mention that most early humans die during the war against the Titans.

Sex

Some innuendo in Zeus' interactions with Metis. They frolic in the water in a few panels, and Zeus asks for a kiss. Then they lie around in the grass together and Zeus makes a joke about how he can "grow pretty big." Titans are depicted as gigantic muscular beings, with private areas always hidden in shadow.

Language

One "damned."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Zeus: King of the Gods is the first in a 12-book graphic-novel series that highlights one Greek god at a time. Zeus' rise to power was a violent power struggle with crashing mountains and gargantuan Titans trying to take out the Olympians. Who wouldn't want to oust the father that ate your other siblings whole? Zeus travels to Tartaros and fights some creepy mythical creatures too. Sexual content is heavy on the innuendo when Zeus flirts with Metis. Plus giant Titans aren't clothed (really, how could they be?); private areas are well obscured with shading, however. A generous appendix provides profiles of the gods, a discussion guide, extra storytelling behind specific panels, and a bibliography.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKjbartolotta September 9, 2015

Top rate, but requires some maturity.

O'Conner perfectly mixes the comic style with Greek myth, even going one better and engaging in some scholarship on the subject, this is IMHO as good as it... Continue reading

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What's the story?

ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS begins at the complete beginning, Kaos, and ends with Zeus taking up his thrown on Mt. Olympus. After Gaea, the earth mother, begat the Titans and had her husband, Ouranos, killed, Zeus' future father, Kronos, became lord of the universe. Since Kronos was too much like his father, Gaea cursed him, telling him that his own child would overthrow him. So he ate all his children -- he thought. But his mom, Rhea, managed to hide Zeus away on the island of Crete. There he developed his powers and his hatred of Kronos. With a little help from Gaea, Zeus was ready to overthrow his father and set his siblings free.

Is it any good?

This early, dark mythology of the gods will not be familiar to most readers, yet it's well told, and author George O'Connor's love of mythology shines through. Despite the fact that this Olympic story has to be the hardest one to tell visually -- he literally had to start with nothing, or "Kaos" (his chosen spelling). There's no making that panel interesting. But the art improves promptly. His Titans are dark masses of muscle towering over clouds and mountains. Glimpses of giant cyclops eyes and creatures with 100 hands are fantastically creepy.

The lightness of a baby-blue blanket is almost jarring when Zeus appears. His early life is a brief sunny moment in the story before mountains explode and thunderbolts rain down in the big, dramatic power struggle for dominance over the universe. However, the introduction of humans into the world seems glossed over and confusing. An extra few panels with Prometheus and his clay would have been welcome.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about one of the author's excellent questions in the appendix discussion guide. For starters, which superheroes are similar to characters in Greek mythology?

  • For those who've read about the gods in other formats, do you prefer this graphic-novel version or a more text-heavy treatment? What can graphic novels convey better than text alone? What can more text-based storytelling convey better than graphic novels?

  • For those who know more stories of Greek gods, how is Zeus' story unique? Why is he chosen as the king of the gods?

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