“Betrayal” (part 12)
Troilus and Cressida’s new found happiness comes to an end as King Priam orders that Cressida be handed over to the Achaeans as a ransom for his advisor Antenor. Also, a new Trojan warrior causes havoc among the Achaean lines.
Eric Shanower’s latest chapter in his re-telling of the Trojan War offers readers young love, paternal love, valor, petty arguments, and death. In short, he’s captured the heart and spirit of the original myth and brings it to vivid life for a new generation of readers.
In strikes me that if fans of Twilight‘s tortured love story could be convinced to try this issue they’d like it a lot. Troilus and Cressida are all about the drama, willing to die for their love. The way Shanower plays out the scene between the two lovers makes me laugh. Not because it’s handled ineptly or because it’s inappropriate. The tone is pitch perfect for these characters as they’ve been portrayed all along. It’s just Cressida’s expression as Troilus is about to prove his love is so realistic, so “Oh my gosh! He actually thought I meant it!” that an older reader can’t help but chuckle over the teen-age romance drama. Teen readers on the other hand would probably feel the moment every bit as intensely as the characters.
Shanower opens the issue with two contrasting panels that set the mood and conflict of the whole chapter. In the first we see Troilus in battle, his face covered in sweat and dirt. In the second, Troilus and Cressida are naked and wrapped in one another’s arms, declaring their love for one another. A maximum of information is conveyed in a minimum of space. Troilus is working very hard to keep his two worlds separate. However, just as they’re side-by-side on the page, they’re going to come together as the issue progresses.
Long-time readers of the series will also find this scene an echo of an earlier one between Paris and his Helen, when Paris dallied in his lover’s bed while others bore the brunt of the war for him. In another similarity, the two brothers declare that they fight for the honor of Troy and its glory. Their words sound rather hollow to me. Both men seem to have a romantic image of themselves that they prop up with their war service and their devotion to their loves. Hektor and Antenor’s more level-headed attitude and lamenting of the loss of life appeals to me more. But then, I always did like Hektor better in the Iliad anyway.
Antenor gets the most heart-rending scenes in the book as he deals with learning his son has died in battle. The three page sequence in which he hears the news, sees his son’s body, and decides what he’ll do next is an incredible synthesis of art and words. There’s nothing flashy about the scene, no extreme close-ups or gritted teeth or cries for justice or vengeance. It’s all rather restrained. You see an old man heartbroken and holding himself together by sheer strength of will. It’s visible in the way he turns from the body suddenly, walks with a bowed head, stares at the hand that once cradled his son, then clenches that same hand into a fist. Shanower gives readers everything they need to imagine what’s going on in this man’s head, but allows them to fill it in for themselves.
Shanower’s handling of the nudity in this issue is an object lesson for artists young and old. There’s nothing salacious or titillating about Troilus and Cressida’s being in the buff. It’s completely natural and appropriate for the story. It also allows for a visual depiction of the reversal of fortune. The book opens with Troilus armored and fighting. It ends with him naked and in despair. In Cressida’s first appearance she’s naked and begging Troilus to stay with her. In her last appearance, we see Cressida dressed, the equivalent of Troilus’s armor, and leaving him. It’s a superb visualization of the theme.
Age of Bronze #31 is full of wonderful moments that add up to a captivating whole. Readers who enjoy history, romance, battles, and well told stories are encouraged to seek this book out.