It seems like one of the favorite Greek myths to retell right now is the story of Hades and Persephone. I know of at least two currently underway on Webtoons: Punderworld and Lore Olympus. The latter recently came out in hard copy book form for the first 25 chapters and also won Goodreads’ Best Graphic Novel or Comic of 2021. I was a little surprised to see it on display at the library (I figured it would be checked out with a waiting list), so naturally I grabbed it.
In this version of the ancient Greek deity world, the gods basically live in a modern high society city, with constant parties to attend in their high-end fashion, fancy sports cars, etc. This also comes with some of the associated problems like toxic relationships (there is a content warning about that and a few other things at the beginning) and general unhappiness on a more personal level. This version of Hades is a loner in part because he doesn’t seem to be like his brothers Zeus and Poseidon who have well-deserved reputations for being womanizers. Hades definitely does not enjoy the family gatherings until he meets Persephone. She’s newly arrived to the city, staying with her friend Artemis, having spent most of her childhood in the Mortal realm, which also makes sense as she is a nature goddess. Apparently humans in this time and place live in a pastoral, agricultural world while the gods are urbanites. There has got to be commentary to be made on that, even if it’s not intentional.
There is a lot of awkwardness both internal and external on both Hades’ and Persephone’s parts throughout the volume though, which makes them both pretty relatable. The problem is also the other gods and goddesses; Aphrodite for example overhears Hades say Persephone might be prettier than she is, and tries to get revenge by having Eros (who really feels bad about it after) spike her (P’s) drink and leave her passed out in Hades car. This part of the story, where you might expect the classical rape to happen, is actually more about the two starting to bond like a pair of awkward teenagers with a little help from the hounds of Hell. There is a rape later on (forewarning from the initial content notice again) but it’s not necessarily who you’d expect.
There is a good bit of characterization for multiple gods and goddesses, although more for the main couple. Hades has some childhood issues himself, and Persephone has to deal with being the new girl in town, being naïve and unsure of herself, going along with her first experiences of god society. They make a cute pair, and even though the end of the story is somewhat known, both from the mythology but also a vision one of the other goddesses has, there’s still plenty that’s going to need filling in. Just watch for the coat. Also the cell phone; Persephone is pretty cute about getting her first one (a hand-me-down) and Hades’ reaction to when he figures out who the “unknown number” that has been texting him is is almost funny.
The art is also kind of intriguing; it seems like the various gods and goddesses all have their own color. Persephone is pink, Hades a darkish blue, Artemis and also Apollo are purple, Poseidon is green, Hera yellow, Hermes red, etc. There is some overlap but the whole color-coding scheme is interesting. For example, Zeus is also purple, but he is Artemis’ and Apollo’s father. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any actual connection there or if it’s more just of a way of providing some distinction between the various characters. I also like the shifting perspectives since you get both interior and exterior speech from both Hades and Persephone, and once in a while another character as well. One thing I noticed from this back and forth is that it seems like a lot of the gods and goddesses have had their happier times, but right now kind of sucks for everyone much of the time. This world is pretty human and complicated so watching how things proceed from the rather-cliffhanger-like ending is going to be interesting.