Ancient mythologies in modern day
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For today's class, I will be presenting you two books that brilliantly incorporate the world of ancient mythology. One uses the established world of Norse godhood, the other introduces a new legend based around early American cultures.
Place of the Egrets by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker
Published by DC Comics under the Vertigo Imprint
Air is definitely one of these books that I have a hard time placing into any one particular category or genre. I think that's mostly because one of the things that the book does well is blur the line between fiction and reality. It explores what our concepts are of fantasy and history, and borders between realms. I know even that sounds a little vague, so I'll try to clear it up. Don't blame me if I don't get too far.
The story up till now has revolved around Blythe, who for all she knew, was a simple flight attendant. Her world gets turned upside down, as usually is the case in stories like this, when a mysterious shady-type figure asks her to transport a package on one of the flights she's working. That somehow led to her meeting some secret agent she fell in love with, crossing a border into a country that supposedly no longer exists because people stopped believing in it, riding a dirigible constructed from ancient texts, and discovering that she's possibly the reincarnated avatar of the god of flight... or something like that.
Crazy, right? It sounds like this should have all occurred over the course of several years, and yet this is only issue 10 of the series. In fact, being such a relatively new book, it's pretty easy to get caught up. A collected edition of 1-5 is available for $9.99 cover price, and you can snag up issue #7 for a buck. Not too shabby for a title that got an Eisner nomination for Best New Series.
What really appeals to me in this story is how Wilson is building an entirely new mythology. Based on the language that she's using, it sort of built around Aztec/Maya/Inca stuff, with names likes Aztlan and Nahui. Quetzalcoatl also makes a few appearances. I wish I knew a bit more about the established folklore so I could compare and maybe appreciate a bit more, but I think even someone who has never encountered any of it can still find this tale interesting. I think the best way to approach this book is with no expectations. That's how I started and have been happy thus far. I'll pretty much pick up any Vertigo book and give it about 4 issues before deciding to drop it if it's no good. This one has lasted for 10 issues with me so far.
Who should read this book:
People who dig stories about early aviation.
People who see fantasy stories as still having relevance to modern socio-political debate.
People who are the reincarnated king of the ancient Mayan civilization.
The Trial of Thor #1
by Peter Milligan an Cary Nord
Published by Marvel
I know I already recently covered a Thor book, but this was just too fun to pass up. This is a great find for someone looking for a quick fantasy read without getting caught up in years of backstory. What I like about this is how much Peter Milligan draws from Nordic mythology. He brings out some pretty obscure characters, including Vali, a denizen of Asgard that has a wolf-form. Granted, Thor smacks him down like an upstart child pretty damn quickly, but it was still cool to see him for a bit.
I also love that it's Norse-style storytelling at its finest. There' battles with Frost Giants, deceptions and trickster-type meddling going on, familial mistrust, maidens, warriors' burials. Oh, and it's pretty much cold the entire time. Can't have a good Norse story without snow making an appearance. Plus, this story takes place out of main Marvel continuity, so you don't need to know that Thor has currently been banished from Asgard, which itself is hovering right around the Latveria region to dig this book.
"Long afterwards, they will sing of how Thor fell upon the combined armies. How, gripped by warrior's madness, he worked through the shocked dwarfs and giants. Like a scythe through bloody corn. Behind him come three warriors that later ballads will invariably and unjustifiably... overlook."
That's an awesome passage that Milligan uses which basically illustrates that no one really cares about the Warriors Three. Oh, people who have been reading Thor for years know all about Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg. But even outside the Marvel U, anyone who tells stories about the Norse gods only ever mentions Thor. Can you blame them? I mean the dude is bred for killing Frost Giants. He flies around smackin' foo's up with a bigass hammer. At times he'll even, as Odin All-Father put it, "sport with some mortal women." The guy wears wings on his helmet, and he's still the toughest kid on the block.
Who should read this book:
People who know what "Yggdrasil" is.
People who battle Frost Giants.
People who get trapped in a mall during a zombie invasion.
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