Whenever I think of Eric Shanower’s “Age of Bronze,” two immediate thoughts come to mind. First, that “Age of Bronze” is going to be comic that twenty years from now will have its proper place as a modern classic of comics. And second, why aren’t more people reading it?
The biggest excuse I’ve heard is that they don’t know when they can jump in. Well, with three collections binding together issues #1-26, the time is now. The Greeks (or Achaeans) have finally arrived at Troy, trying to rescue Helen, Queen of Sparta. The problem is, she doesn’t want to leave Troy, she’s quite happy with her new husband Paris and their children they’ve created together.
And now? War begins. The negotiations are over and the Achaeans are ready to lay siege to Troy. Achilles is eager for battle, as is Iolaus, even though the priest claims that the first to set foot on shore in battle will die. Meanwhile, inside Troy, Hektor’s marriage is about to be interrupted by tidings of war, and Kassandra continues to give her prophecies of doom that no one else will believe.
Based off the classic poem “The Iliad”, “Age of Bronze” is in many ways the first soap opera. There’s a large cast of characters, with different motivations and relationships interacting between each other. What makes it work is that Shanower makes people on both sides of the war interesting, compelling characters. Watching Hektor and Andromache’s wedding interrupted by the landing of the Achaean fleet is frustrating; you want to see Hektor succeed, as good a person as Paris is loathsome. Likewise, while the Achaeans may be in the right, that doesn’t mean that you necessarily want to see all of them survive as well.
And of course, it’s not just war that “Age of Bronze” shows us. The relationships are a huge part of the comic; after Helen’s frosty reaction to her husband’s arrival at the end of Volume 3, we get to see a very different side to her character in the new issue, and that additional information is something that I appreciated. Likewise, Achilles and Patroklus’ relationship continues, both on and off the battlefield. Watching them interact in the first major battle of the Trojan War adds another layer to the two of them. “Age of Bronze” has a little bit of something for everyone: drama, action, even the occasional bits of comedy when you least expect them.
Shanower’s classically-inspired art is as beautiful as always. Thin, crisp lines carefully compose each character with near perfection, drawing not only each of the characters beautifully but taking great care to draw the outfits and buildings of the time with great accuracy. From a furtive kiss between Paris and Helen, to the armies of Troy pouring out of the city gates, Shanower takes care with any and every illustration.
My only complaint about “Age of Bronze” would have to be that I wish we had more issues on a regular basis. And clearly, the best way for that to happen would be if everyone started buying “Age of Bronze” as well. It’s a fantastic series, and with three collected editions on sale, now is the perfect time to try it out for yourself. You won’t regret it.