Desert Isle Keeper
I adore Rachel Smythe’s Lore Olympus on Webtoon (it was one of the comics I recommended in my blog post about Webtoon), so I was thrilled when they announced there would be a physical paper edition. My preorder arrived last week and it is everything I’d hoped for.
Billed as “Witness what the gods do… after dark”, Lore Olympus tells the story of Hades and Persephone with a modern-infused setting and retro art. In Volume 1, Hades is smitten by Persephone at her first party on Olympus, and offends Aphrodite by saying Persephone is even more beautiful than the Goddess of Love. Aphrodite retaliates by having her son Eros stuff a passed-out Persephone in the back of Hades’s car, leading to the disoriented young goddess waking up in the Underworld. Hades knows the realm of death is no place for the Goddess of Spring. Plus, he has a girlfriend (even if she’s awful), and Persephone is just embarking on her eternal adulthood, living on Olympus with her roommate Artemis. Artemis’s brother Apollo, however, doesn’t have the same sense that Persephone is off-limits – not even when she tells him so herself.
Oh, my gods. This is just so good.
Lore Olympus positions Persephone as a goddess newly arrived on Olympus after spending her childhood and teen years being raised by her mother Demeter in the Mortal Realm. She’s also still coming into her divine powers, which aren’t consistently under control (her hair, for instance, grows to Rapunzel-like lengths when her feelings run high). She is tentative, insecure, and a bit of a country bumpkin, and you just want someone to take her under their wing.
Hades is a terrific hero. While his fellow gods consider him the “undesirable” god of death, he actually has the strongest conscience and moral center of any of the Olympians. A scene where Zeus and Poseidon (well-established by Greek mythological canon as, well, dirtbags) take Hades to a strip club is both hilarious and effective in establishing how different this god is from his brothers. He dreams of a companion, a queen for his kingdom, but hates the thought of saddling someone with his unhappy duties. He doesn’t think of himself as worth much, either, hence his relationship with a verbally abusive nymph named Minthe he’s resigned himself to proposing to. I spent every encounter with Hades wanting to give him a hug.
The art is what skyrockets Lore Olympus to prominence among the scads of comics on Webtoon, and it looks glorious and rich in full-color print. (I advise springing for the hardcover edition. Full-color graphic novel pages are heavy, and I have yet to encounter a paperback spine that supports them for more than a couple of readings). Lore Olympus is defined by its dark/light color aesthetic, the rich navy blues of Hades and the Underworld set against Persephone’s shades of pink. I was worried that the blues might print excessively dark, but there’s a balance of depth and clarity in the colors, and it reads beautifully.
The author has done a terrific job transitioning the layouts from Webtoon’s vertical scroll format to the full pages of a graphic print edition. Page layouts vary in number of panels and their sizes and shapes, which gives energy and pacing as you read.
Persephone is drawn in a hyper-feminized, exaggerated pin-up hourglass form. I don’t adore this shape, but at least it exists in a way that isn’t (for lack of a better word) male gaze-y. Persephone has cleavage like crazy, but she’s not posed to shove her boobs into the viewer’s face, nor is she contorted into porn-like flauntings of hips etc. She is less a figure of lust and more like what happens to a squishy child’s toy when you hug it so hard the waist gets reduced to a handspan. If you follow Lore Olympus on Webtoon, you’ll notice that the author’s style has shifted since she drew the earliest episodes, with Persephone, in particular, becoming less extreme over time.
Lore Olympus is an adult telling of the Hades/Persephone myth. It has on-page date rape which, while not graphically illustrated, captures the confused mental experience of the victim in a compelling and upsetting way that requires a mature reader. Because this is only the first volume of a long series, this plot won’t be resolved here, nor will Hades and Persephone find their HEA. You’ll have to keep reading for that.
Hades and Persephone are a hugely popular incarnation of opposites attract/beauty and the beast, and Lore Olympus is by far the best spin on their story. Can you read it online for free? Sure. Will you want this graphic novel anyway? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.