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Athena #3

Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2009
By: Ray Tate

Doug Murray
Fabiano Nieves & Paul Renaud, Marcello Maiolo & Renaud(c)
Dynamite
Athena provides interest in several ways. First, it reimagines the Trojan War as recounted in The Iliad. A Helen of Troy avatar catalyzes this new war, but city-states do not wage battle in the comic book. Rather, two different groups of gangster families attempt to decimate each other. It's a sly updating.

This issue's outstanding set-piece involves the Trojan Horse. Writer Doug Murray demonstrates ingenuity when retelling the famous fable that led to the phrase, never look a gift horse in the mouth. I also appreciate that though the events play out like the Trojan War, they do not evolve in a déjà vu vacuum.

If a character in a story picks up a hitchhiker after hearing about an escaped serial killer on the radio, she really only has herself to blame for her brutal demise. The driver in this fiction apparently never saw the scores of movies in which characters end up dead because they replicated her actions. Ares in human guise warns his side of the Trojan Horse tactic, and the hoods appear to recall the strategy from a movie version. This defies the usual trope of characters in fiction usually being strangely unaware of fiction.

The characterization of the gods in Athena offers the second point of interest. Ares is usually the bad guy. Kevin Smith's version of the deity in early seasons of Xena serves as an excellent example of the diabolic Ares. The war god has been a thorn in Wonder Woman's side since the original Moulton era. Murray's Ares acts differently. He's cordial to his sister. He fights with her not against her. He attacks the side he is on when he wears his human facade. He is not merely the bad guy.

Athena has always been considered a good guy, as she is in this comic book. Murray though remembers that Athena is not just the goddess of wisdom but also the goddess of war. She is Ares' sister. In one scene, Athena defends Ares, and it's very clear that she cares about him. She also defines a cowardly act in battle more heinous than the actions of her own would-be assassin from previous issues.

When Zeus manifests, he is unlike the fatherly Laurence Olivier seen in Clash of the Titans. Murray's Zeus is much more ambivalent. His power is scary, and there's no doubt in the reader's mind that this is the same chief god responsible for siring demigods with unwilling women. Even though Zeus thinks one his children will kill him and assume his mantle, he is resigned to his fate, and he still shows affection for his offspring.

Fabiano Nieves, Paul Renaud and Marcello Maiolo offer the reader a third reason to pick up Athena. The art is pure action-packed eye candy. Athena looks at once noble, majestic and beautiful. She bears an otherworldly quality when clad in her armor and maintains the physique of a warrior. This is most evident when she stands beside her brother Ares. Nieves, Renaud and Maiolo make Ares gargantuan in all dimensions, yet Athena is only slightly shorter, and her sinew although less cut is comparable to her bigger, thicker brother.

The Zeus effect is a good one. He really appears to take form from the clouds of dust thrown up during the melee. His eyes crackle lightning, and the scene alludes to elemental visions Ray Harryhausen conjured with stop animation. The scenes on a more terrestrial plane bear verisimilitude, and the realistic moments of gunplay, gangsters and cops sharply contrast the actual representation of the Trojan War, also depicted in Athena. Given a brassy hue, the artists burnish their illustration for the classic with a nuance of antiquity. The Trojan War narrative acts like a miniature graphic novel buried within a modern comic book.



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