Gareth Hinds’ adaptation of The Iliad is an excellent introduction to Homer’s classic for middle graders and teens.
*The Iliad: a Graphic Novel Adaptation by Gareth Hinds. Candlewick, 2019, 256 pages.
Reading Level: Teen, ages 12-15
Recommended for: ages 12-up
Sing to me, O Muse, of the rage of Achilles, fiercest of all the Achaean warriors who sailed to Troy . . .
The story of The Iliad is all about rage and fury, chiefly from Achilles (who spends most of the narrative in his quarters), but also King Agamemnon, Prince Hector, and every warrior who ever screamed for vengeance in the heat of battle. Given that anger was one of the first major effects of the fall (see Genesis 4), it’s fitting that one of the world’s oldest narratives has rage at its core. Contrary to the assumptions of many, The Iliad does not include the story of the Trojan Horse, the sack of Troy, or even the death of its greatest warrior in battle. It begins with the feud between Achilles and Agamemnon, King of Maecenae (ancient ancient Greece) and ends with the funeral of Hector. In between are lots of battle scenes richly described by Homer and richly depicted (with plenty of blood) by Hinds. But The Iliad has endured not as a gore-fest but as detailed examination of human character as exaggerated by war. Its heroes are not always heroic, its gods are less godlike than meddlesome (as Achilles acknowledges: “The gods, who have no cares themselves, have woven sorrow into the very pattern of our lives”). The author/artist begins with an illustrated cast of characters: Greeks (Achaeans), Trojans, and gods. The warriors are drawn with their initials worked into their breastplates, which helps to keep them straight in the thick of battle. A prologue sets up the story, and then we’re plunged into the feud between Achilles and Agamemnon.
Six pages of text notes at the end call attention to visual details, Homer’s original, and ancient history—at least as fascinating as the main narrative. One aspect that Christians should appreciate is the fatalist pagan mind laid bare: “Men are not to blame,” says Agamemnon. “The will of the gods shapes these things.” Taken altogether this graphic novel is a fine exposition of a classic text for those who don’t have the time, inclination, or maturity to read the original.
Caution: Violence (semi-graphic depictions of spears through chests, heads severed)
Overall rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 4
- Artistic value: 5