The story of Hera, Queen of the Gods, and the heroes who won her favor.
Volume 3 of Olympians, Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory, introduces readers to the Queen of the Gods and Goddesses in the Pantheon. This volume tells the tales of the many heroes who sought and won Hera’s patronage, most notably Hercules.
In Olympians, O’Connor draws from primary documents to reconstruct and retell classic Greek myths. But these stories aren’t sedate, scholarly works. They’re action-packed, fast-paced, high-drama adventures with monsters, romance, and not a few huge explosions.
O’Connor’s vibrant, kinetic art brings ancient tales to undeniable life, in a perfect fusion of super-hero aesthetics and ancient Greek mythology.
Before there was the Jeremy Kyle show, there was these two: Zeus and Hera, the world’s original high-drama power couple. Zeus and Hera are well known for destroying everyone around them in their explosive marital fights; in what began as a playful debate over which gender gets more pleasure out of sex, Hera ended up blinding Tiresias for taking Zeus’ side- while Zeus in turn gave him ‘special disability powers’ to see into the future. And then there was Hera’s penchant for driving everyone mad.
Hera was the villain of so many Greek myths; she wrought devastation in The Iliad; she tortured Dionysis repeatedly in his various origins; and she drove the women of Aenaes’ crew mad in the Aenead. I admit, as I am rather a fan of Hera, I was worried that she would be reduced to the shrewish harpy that Homer made her. Zeus was a terrible husband, who manipulated her into marrying him with the threat of rape and then continually cheated on her. Hera, in turn would avenge herself on the object of affection and any offspring they produced, but since since her one attempt to overthrow Zeus ended badly, who could blame her?
Fortunately, O’Connor admits in his author’s notes that he loves this powerful Goddess and his portrayal gives her a fairer representation. In the very first few panels we are told that Hera is the one thing Zeus fears, and we see her casually stop a giant’s club with her bare hands. The portrayal of their marriage is perfect, as it shows the famously proud Hera demanding he treat her like a true Queen of heaven, and both of them being well aware of the chaos they’re both signing up for.
The first part of the graphic novel looks at Zeus’ various affairs and Hera’s revenge. But the bulk of story focuses on Hercules and his 12 labours. These are very action packed adventures which see Heracles sail with the Argonauts, slay the Hydra and choose a path of difficulty over the path of safety. These parts are exciting swashbuckling adventures and great for children (especially boys), though perhaps less cerebral than the understated power dynamics at play in Aphrodite.
However, there’s more than meets the eye. You see, Heracle’s name means ‘glory of Hera’, which is very perplexing considering Greek myth pits Hera against Heracles as his principle antagonist, driving him mad and causing him to kill his family in a murderous rage. Although Hera’s character as the psychotic shrew is pinned down by Homer and Virgil, Heracles name and the myth of Hera suckling him as an infant and creating the milky way suggests she wasn’t always viewed as this despised figure. Throughout the story we see O’connor give a reconciliation of these characterizations and reach a verdict of why Heracles is called ‘glory of Hera’. In a brilliant conversation Heracles has with Jason (a man Hera actually chose to help), Jason tells him:
Hera’s enmity, her wrath, it has inspired you to true Greatness. All these great things you have done, it’s because of her, Heracles. Your name will live forever.
Heracle’s was given a choice at the beginning: the choice to walk an easy path in life, where he will be comfortable but unremarkable and forgotten; or, walk a path of hardship which won’t end happily ever after, but will drive him to greatness . He chose the latter, and so he chose Hera’s wrath which drove him to greatness.
Verdict: Though perhaps more action packed and less subtle and complex than his work on Aphrodite, Goddess Of Love, Hera, The Goddess and Her Glory doesn’t disappoint. O’Connor refuses to reduce Hera to a cruel shrew and makes Hera a strong and proud woman, in a portrayal that is both creative and faithful to the original mythology.
Recommended for: fans of Greek mythology, children who want an exciting introduction to Greek myth and Heracles/ Hercules that’s more accurate than the Disney film.
Rating: 4 wrongs with this picture / 5