O’Connor spotlights the goddess of beauty and love in this solid addition to his Olympians series.
Aphrodite’s three attendants, the Charites, narrate a slightly-too-long recap of the origin of the Titans and Olympians, leading up to the goddess’s birth. This telling emphasizes the power of Eros as an independent force in order to highlight the dangerous potential of Aphrodite, Eros’ embodiment. After a series of shorter myths, various affairs and the introduction of Aphrodite’s capricious son (a mischievous cherub she names Eros, of course), the story concentrates on the beauty contest of the goddesses Aphrodite, Hera and Athena, judged by the mortal Paris. The problematic female stereotypes inherent in a story of powerful women fighting over looks are brought to center stage and addressed by the characters. They find the contest “beneath” them and “debasing” even while participating and reframe the contest as one of power by offering Paris boons—Hera would make him a rich king, Athena a conquering hero. Aphrodite offers him the most beautiful woman in the world: Helen of Troy. Graphically, O’Connor compensates for the lack of action in Aphrodite’s myths by taking advantage of the comic-book format for humor, with quick lines of dialogue and humorous reaction shots.
This neatly nuanced take on Aphrodite shows respect for the ultrafeminine heroine. (author’s note, character profiles, “G[r]eek Notes,” discussion questions, bibliography) (Graphic mythology. 8-14)