It is an excellent idea to turn such a complicated story into a graphic novel. The Iliad is Homer’s account of the final year of the Trojan War, marked by a ten-year siege of the city of Troy (Ilium) by the Achaeans (known to us now as the Greeks). The war was allegedly started over the beautiful Helen of Troy. As the author points out:
“The Iliad . . . is considered the greatest war story of all time and one of the most important works of Western literature.”
But because it is extremely complex, Hinds’ graphic rendition makes it much more accessible.
In the last year of the Trojan War, King Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks, gets into a feud with his best warrior, Achilles. Once again, the conflict between them begins over a woman. Or more accurately, it is a conflict egged on by the gods, who play a large role in manipulating everybody on both sides.
During the course of of the story, Homer fills us in on the cause of the war and many of the Greek legends about the siege. Then the epic takes up events prophesied for the future, although the narrative ends before these events take place. In this way, however, The Iliad relates a more or less complete tale of the entire Trojan War.
Hinds does a great job keeping you apprised of who the characters are on both sides, as well as those behind the scenes on Mount Olympus, home of the gods. The story is interspersed with sidebars, aids, and maps, but it is the graphic art that makes the largest contribution. You get to “know” who the actors are not only by what they look like, but by each one’s distinctive clothes, shields, and armor. Notes at the end of the book give further illumination to the story and the background for it.
The author also refashions translations of The Iliad into simpler and more modern prose, while occasionally retaining some of the poetry from the original. In this way Hines is able to demonstrate the power of Homer’s original work, which dates from around the 8th century B.C., making it at least over 2,000 years old.
In an Author’s Note at the end of the book, Hinds answers the question, “Why do we still read The Iliad? He sums up his answer as:
“We can experience The Iliad as a timeless tale of the courage, heroism, vanity, pettiness, and mortality we all share, and as a way to understand the history of Western civilization. Either way, it’s a great story.”
Evaluation: This book would be perfect for anyone – especially those in school – having to, or wanting to, tackle The Iliad. (Recommended audience is age 10 through adult.) The dynamic and expressive pictures and understandable text may convince many readers to turn to the original. Even if not, they will get a new understanding of the many historical and philosophical issues revealed in Homer’s original epic. Hinds’ research is hard to fault, and he is well deserving of the acclaim he has received for his other graphic adaptations, including The Odyssey and Beowulf, inter alia.
Published by Candlewick Press, 2019