BlueWater Comics has been producing a number of interesting and innovative comics over the past few years, including a whole series of biographical comics. They also have a series called Wrath of the Titans, which certainly should suggest some sense of familiarity in many readers. The four-issue series collected here in a trade paperback picks up where the original film left off — and pays no heed whatsoever to the awful remake from 2010, thankfully! — and it is fully licensed by Ray Harryhausen himself.
The look of the comic is based entirely on the original Harryhausen film. While there are some mythology purists who feel that the 1981 film got the story of Perseus “wrong” in a variety of ways, I have to say that it pales in comparison to the remake in terms of how off-the-rails the story became in that more recent film, transforming the hero into an atheist amongst other true atrocities to the very notion of Greek mythology; but, this review is not about that film, and so I will spend no more time on it. For many of my generation, however, the original Clash of the Titans film was one of our first exposures to Greek myths, and one of very few that took place in the cinema (or any other popular media) in the early 1980s. Thus, no matter how “wrong” it might be from certain viewpoints, it holds a special place in the hearts of many of us, and likely always will. Mythological narrative is re-interpreted every time it is told, and the medium of film is no different in this respect than any other; as a result, it is nearly impossible to get a story “wrong” when retelling it, unless one is a complete fundamentalist about the myths and insists that the only valid versions are the ones as recorded (often with a great deal of diversity) in the ancient world. Translating this narrative tradition, therefore, into the medium of comics is rather auspicious, since the same effects can be achieved in comics without having to have gigantic budgets for either CGI or stop-motion animation (as in the original Harryhausen film).
The comic has Perseus facing some new enemies, including a cyclops, and even Typhon (which is particularly imaginative and impressive), as well as some of the old favorites from the film like Calibos and the ever-popular Kraken both making appearances. Perseus is assisted by some of his allies from the first film as well, including the Pegasus and Bubo the mechanical owl. It is really a continuing series of adventures and quests for the hero, who has to rescue his infant son Perses from the sorceress Circe, in which various gods (including Apollo) and titans (including Kronos, in a most intriguing fashion) also get involved in a variety of ways.
Admittedly, there is not a great deal of new “mythic” content in this story, though it is most certainly an “epic” adventure for the hero. It does not seek, however, to be cosmologically insightful or enlightening literature, but instead a mythologically well-informed action/adventure tale drawing on many Greek sources for its cast of heroes, monsters, and deities. This is the difference, to use cinematic metaphors, between a documentary and a summer blockbuster: both certainly have their places, and both can be equally enjoyable. In this manner, Wrath of the Titans is a very successful book.
My largest complaint with it was one of proper terminological usage. Perseus was king of Argos, and thus he was an Argive and his people were Argives. The comic refers to them as “Argosians,” which was a bit jarring. Given that the writers did research a great deal to come up with several aspects of their story, it is surprising that they did not come across this particular trend in usage. However, that is a relatively small oversight in what is otherwise a very enjoyable story.
[Phillip A. Bernhardt-House teaches adjunct history and religion classes at various colleges in Washington state, and formerly taught as a guest professor at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Phillip’s academic publications include articles in Béascna, Foilsiú, Cosmos: The Yearbook of the Traditional Cosmology Society, Journal for the Academic Study of Magic, Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook, and Studia Celtica Fennica as well as several anthologies and conference proceedings volumes, and articles inParabola and Thorn. He is also the author of Werewolves, Magical Hounds, and Dog-headed Men in Celtic Literature: A Typological Study of Shape-Shifting, published in 2010 by The Edwin Mellen Press.]