*Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships — Recommended

Age of Bronze retells the story of the Trojan War in a beautiful, realistic fashion. Although they speak of being a god’s son or daughter the way we’d speak of our parents’ hometown, the participants are treated as real people with identifiable motivations: lust, anger, greed, arrogance … all the classics. Eric Shanower well deserved the 2001 and 2003 Eisner Awards for Best Writer/Artist.

A Thousand Ships opens with Paris as a cowherd, which grounds the series before launching into more fantastic adventures. Paris, you see, is the long-lost son of the king, previously thought dead. He’s also a classic adolescent; his dreams and wants get in the way of the bigger picture. He doesn’t realize how much cleaning up after him other people have to do, whether it’s causing his dad to do his farm chores or disrupting a kingdom by kidnapping Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world.

Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships cover
Age of Bronze:
A Thousand Ships
Buy this book

The adoptive father’s subtle characterization is a true gem. Here’s a man driven by duty but still with glimpses of his pride glimmering in the background. We’re also introduced to Achilles as a boy, and we see more of what it must be like for him to be hidden as a girl among kings’ daughters. Along the way, we learn more about the agreements, treaties, and history between the kingdoms that lead into the coming war as the leaders assemble.

Odysseus’s goodbye to his wife Penelope and their newborn child Telemachus as he heads off to war captures his sadness and underlying fear. As this first volume comes to a close, the assembled warriors deal with impatience and frustration at continuing delays. They’ve been waiting for two and a half years, and they’re running out of food. Then a prophet envisions nine years of battle, with success in the tenth year, which doesn’t help the mood. Finally, after dealing with omens and curses, they launch for Troy.

Beyond the awesome scope of the story — this is the closest thing in comics to a true generational saga, what with previously unknown princes, kidnappings, and the other schemes of the rich and powerful — the appeal of this series is the gorgeous art.

Eric Shanower is a highly-accomplished craftsman, and he brings to the series exactly what’s required, ranging from detailed facial expressions and body language in quiet, mood-driven scenes to large gestures and overwhelming emotion in rowdy, crowded comedy interludes. The layouts are simple and easy to follow, allowing the detail-packed panels to be read clearly. This is a true comic book: both the words and pictures are essential to the story, and they combine to create something greater than the sum of their parts.

The collections provide extras, including maps of the relevant areas, extensive bibliographies, genealogical charts, and pronunciation guides. A Thousand Ships has a lengthy afterword that explains the genesis of the project and gives a lot of historical and interpretative detail. The paper quality is incredible, thick white and non-glossy, causing the detailed art to stand out and read crisply.

The official web site has more information. Eric Shanower also does lovely work on stories about the Land of Oz.

Similar Posts: Shanower in Troy § Age of Bronze: Sacrifice § *Age of Bronze: Betrayal — Best of 2007 § Cool Events Coming Up § Good Link Reads


9 Responses to “*Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships — Recommended”

  1. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] As Sacrifice begins (following first volume A Thousand Ships), Paris and Helen return to Troy. King Priam at first refuses to admit her, knowing her presence will bring his city under attack, but she is pregnant with his grandchild. Kassandra prophesies doom but isn’t believed, in an affecting portrayal of a tortured soul. [...]

  2. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor Volume 2 (JUL06 0023, $19.95) is due the same day, with contributions from Eric Shanower, Mark Waid, Gene Ha, Steve Rude, Richard Corben, Gene Colan, and more, including, I quote, “the very last work ever by Superman artist Curt Swan”. And the book only took ten years! (Does this mean The Last Dangerous Visions is right around the corner?) I fondly remember this anthology series from when I got seriously back into comics; now I just have to find the previous issues to remind myself of how good it was. [...]

  3. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Eric Shanower, the brilliant cartoonist behind Age of Bronze, sends along the following report of what he did on his vacation. For twelve days this summer I was in Turkey, visiting the site of Troy and the surrounding area to do research and gain experience for Age of Bronze, my comics retelling of the Trojan War legend. It was one of the most magnificent experiences of my life. I’m writing a report on the trip and posting it with photos to the Age of Bronze website. [...]

  4. Comics Worth Reading » Adventures in Oz Says:

    [...] The immensely talented Eric Shanower (Age of Bronze) is a long-time fan of the Wizard of Oz books, so much so that he created his own stories with the characters. [...]

  5. Tomorrow’s Comics Today » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] promotion, is Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze: Betrayal, Part One (Image, $17.99). I adore this beautifully illustrated historical series, and reading it in large, bound sections is the way to go, but I have to ask … what delayed [...]

  6. Comics in the Classroom » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] books, those often mentioned when this topic comes up — Bone, Amelia Rules, Clan Apis, Age of Bronze — but they’re common choices because they’re so good for the purpose! I like the [...]

  7. *Age of Bronze: Betrayal — Best of 2007 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] installment in Eric Shanower’s glorious retelling of the Trojan War. (The previous were A Thousand Ships and Sacrifice.) A comprehensive Story So Far opens the volume by reminding the reader who’s [...]

  8. Inanna’s Tears » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] to justify the time or money. Comic fans looking for historical fiction would be better served by Age of Bronze or the Prince Valiant collections. [...]

  9. Eric Shanower Art Used in Iphigenia in Aulis Play » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Shanower (Age of Bronze) is providing art for a production of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis. They also plan a graphic [...]

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