For all its cultural familiarity, there’s never been a full, high literary telling of the story of the Trojan War. Some people may not think an ongoing comics series is an appropriate form for such an epic undertaking, but those are people who haven’t read Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze.
Started in 1998, the series, collected in three volumes so far, has just now reached the start of the war. The first 26 issues detailed the political maneuvering, economic one-upsmanship, and miscommunication that led Agamemnon to amass a fleet to recover his brother’s wife, Helen, from the city of Troy. Both the exhaustively detailed account and Shanower’s dense, naturalistic black-and-white art are uncommonly straightforward; he claims an academic level of archaeological and historic accuracy. Few people could challenge him, and they all have Ph.Ds.
Shanower tells the story, however, with even greater emotional detail. He captures the complex relationship between the people of the ancient world and their gods with a bracing clarity. The themes at play in Age of Bronze aren’t universal, but Shanower makes his characters’ motivations for revenge, treachery, and even human sacrifice believable, if not exactly relatable.