The difficulty with adapting the myths and legends of ancient cultures is that it can be hard to weave the numerous tales of any of the vast pantheons into a single narrative, and Pantheon has a lot of stories to juggle. It starts with the Egyptian story of creation and goes on to Osiris and Set. Pantheon achieves cohesion by having its plot revolve around a core question: what should a God do? Through the character of Ra, author Hamish Steele explores this question. It is thanks to this question that the story ultimately feels like a complete whole rather than a series of anecdotes.
While some might have shied away from some of the more explicit subject matter, Hamish Steele instead chooses not to hold anything back. Violence and sex are used in equal measure as part of the wonderful weirdness and bizarre humour in this book. Fair warning, at one point one of the God's needs to fart out evil semen before it kills him. If you are put off by the thought of that, this isn't the comic for you. Which would be a shame because there is something to be say for Pantheon's odd brand of humour.
While there are sex gags to be found within Pantheon, none of them are there for cheap laughs. Each one of the gags tells us more about the characters or the world that Steele has recreated. He is a fan of the original myths that these characters come from. Their personalities are respected and fleshed out. Pantheon isn't a story of good versus evil. Horus is heroic but he is also incredibly naïve. Seth is devious, but among all the Gods he is also the most insightful in terms of the Gods' flaws. No one is perfect, and so no one is a demon.
The humourous writing is backed up by the artwork (also by Hamish Steele). The Gods are not drawn as gigantic muscle men (and women). They are very round (think Steven Universe), and it fits the tone that Pantheon is going for. The art is comical when it needs to be, yet touching when it needs to be too. It is currently in black and white, but if you prefer your graphic novels in colour you will be happy to know that a coloured version is being published by Nobrow next year (with additional content).
In this day and age, it can feel hard for fans of myth and legend to find books that aren't for children or academics. Pantheon thankfully, is neither. It is funny, a little bonkers, and well worth a read.
PANTHEON: THE TRUE STORY OF THE EGYPTIAN DEITIES / AUTHOR & ARTIST: HAMISH STEELE / PUBLISHER: FUNDED VIA KICKSTARTER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW