Pandarus tries to bring the Trojan Prince Troilus and his niece Cressida together. Meanwhile, the pregnant Helen and the Trojan Queen Hekuba prepare to leave to Troy to bear their children away from the war.
Another issue of Age of Bronze! Hurray! It's always a treat to find the latest chapter of this magnificent series in my mailbox.
This issue doesn't spend a great deal of time on the battlefield - it comes out to about three panels - but there's no lack of drama. There's plenty going on behind the walls of Troy. While Helen might be the darling of the Trojan court, with many of her brothers-in-law casting a lustful eye on her, the city's women aren't so forgiving of her presence. The scene in the women's temple as Helen, Hekuba, and their company arrive for prayers before leaving the city shows that many lay the blame for their predicament and the death of their loved ones squarely on Helen's shoulders. Though Eric Shanower captures the womens' feelings of anger and frustration beautifully, it's Hekuba that shines in this moment. In just two panels she shows she is a queen to be reckoned with.
The Pandarus, Troilus, Cressida plot plays out like a romantic comedy. It's truly wonderful. Pandarus is trying desperately to bring the couple together because he needs Troilus's protection as much as his niece does. Troilus seems to be enjoying his role of love-struck swain, and Cressida is the innocent, shy, and at times somewhat dense heroine. You have scenes of Pandarus setting up secret meetings between the pair, obstacles like unexpected arrivals, and Troilus pretending to be wounded to get Cressida's sympathy. It's very Noel Coward or P.G. Wodehouse and yet you never doubt these are real people dealing with real feelings. The final scene of them declaring their love is beautiful. But it's Pandarus who gets the final word - with a bit of help from Shakespeare as filtered through Shanower's lens.
One of the many things I enjoy about Shanower's work is how he references the all of Greek myth through little throw-away lines the characters say. For instance, the woman Aithra makes the comment "I'm an old hand at this sort of thing. Keeping my son Theseus's paternity secret was just a start." This refers canny readers back to the story of Theseus, filling in background information, while at the same time suggesting certain things about the women having the discussion.
The art is lovely. Shanower spends a lot of time on close-ups of the characters. The features are extremely expressive. Even when someone's not saying a word, you have a good idea of what they're thinking. I do wish at times he had a character gallery with portraits and names included in the book. As he's dealing with families, there can be a great deal of similarity of features, which can be confusing to lazy readers like myself. Fortunately, he usually has the character called by name at some point and gives them individualized jewelry, veils, or headbands to help distinguish them from one another.
This book is absolutely glorious in black and white. Shanower's use of shadow and light is outstanding. There's a panel near the end where Cressida professes her love. Half of her face is cast in deep shadow. This gives the line "When time is old, let the curse 'As false as Cressida' hit the heart of falsehood" an extremely ominous tone even if you don't know what it's foreshadowing.
Despite being thirty issues into the story, this issue actually makes a fairly good jumping on point. Shanower provides a "what's come before" page that quickly brings readers up to speed. The main action is pretty self-contained. Readers get a complete story, sort of a sample if you will.
If you enjoy drama, history, myth, romance, action, and adventure and haven't yet tried Age of Bronze, why haven't you? Remedy that mistake and pick up this issue now.
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