School Library Journal examines RAGE OF POSEIDON

“Graphic Novel Round-up” / School Library Journal / Mark Flowers / December 2, 2013

Today we look at four graphic novels which together show the vast range of the format, in terms of artwork, content, and form.

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On the other hand, Anders Nilsen’s Rage of Poseidon stretches out in an entirely different direction–literally. The pages of the novel unfold from the covers to create one long sheet. While this long sheet, and the largely comic plotline(s) obviously are meant to evoke a comic strip, the oversized, unwieldy nature of the book-as-object, along with the stark black-and-white silhouetted artwork, make it seem closer to a piece of conceptual art–perhaps blurring the lines between high and low art. The content blurs these lines as well, using traditional stories from Greek and Judeo-Christian religion as source material, but adding a distinctly irreverent overlay.

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Four very different stories; four very different styles of art; different formatting choices, one of which is a complete break with the codex. These books should confirm for anyone who doubts it that graphic novels are not a “genre”, and may not even be a “format”, but are simply a convenient categorization for an eclectic group of books which use artwork to help tell their stories.

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NILSEN, Anders. Rage of Poseidon. Drawn & Quarterly. 2013. Tr $29.95. ISBN 9781770461284. LC 2019030573.

Adult/High School–Before content comes form: Nilsen’s attractively packaged graphic novel consists of a single, long sheet of paper that accordions together to fit between the book’s covers. Each “page” consists of a silhouetted, woodblocklike illustration, accompanied by a subtitle, and represents a single panel in a series of comic strips. Seven in all, these strips range in length from one to20 panels, but all address the same issues: the interaction between the mythologies of ancient Greece and Judeo-Christianity, and the continuing relevance of each. Despite the weighty subject, Nilsen’s primary mode is humorous: the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac as seen by Isaac, who is represented as a modern video-gaming teenager; the life of Poseidon after the Greek religion has passed on, climaxing in his destruction of a water park named The Rage of Poseidon; Jesus hitting on Aphrodite in Heaven. But the overwhelming prize of the collection is altogether more desperate: a strip called “The Girl and the Lions,” in which Athena–feeling old and obsolete, much like Poseidon in the title strip–tries to grapple with the reality of the Christian message that a God might not impersonate a human but actually become human. A very fast read, but one that leaves the reader’s mind provoked long after finishing it.–Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA

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