Post number sixty-four is for the second volume of Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze. It is named Sacrifice because Agamemnon must make a sacrifice in order for the ships to be able to sail to Troy. Once again I’m forgoing the spoiler space, because this is literally ancient history that most people are at least passingly familiar with. (Volume one is here, btw.)
So in this volume you get a glimpse of some of Agamemnon and Menelaus’ background, particularly the curse on their family that seems to require that they “consume” each other. The “consume” in one case – that of Tantalus, who killed his children, cooked them, and served them to the gods – is quite literal, while in all the other cases it typically means that they either killed each other, or did something that made one of them kill themselves. It’s really quite the dark family that Helen married in to (and we find out that there’s a curse on her and her siblings as well, which says they’ll marry evil men), which I hadn’t realized. I’d heard the story of Tantalus – he’s one of the Mythological characaters in the Percy Jackson books – but hadn’t realized that he was Agamemnon and Menelaus’ great-great-whatever grandfather.
Anyway, while Agamemnon does finally give Artemis the sacrifice she requires – the life of his daughter, Iphigenia, as she was the “most beautiful thing from Mycenae fourteen years ago” when Agamemnon made his promise to the goddess – there’s much hand-wringing and ideas to escape and run and everything else he can come up with to escape it, so I give him credit for that. At least it wasn’t just a “eh” moment for him; he had to go through a lot before he finally consented, and then he only did consent because the army was all up in arms (literally) and would have killed her anyway. Iphigenia also decides that it’s her “moment of glory”, so decides she’ll just submit. Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife (and Helen’s sister) obviously doesn’t consent at all; it’s from her that we hear about her and Helen’s curse, while she’s railing away at Agamemnon. She’s got quite the spine, let’s just say that.
We also get our first introduction to the homosexuality present in this story, with Patroclus and Achilles. Nothing was terribly graphic, but Achilles does say “forget you” to his wife (and son, although he has to pause a moment to think about that, at least) and run off to his father’s land with Patroclus. :)) Gotta love it. Odysseus was his normal clever, creative and amusing self, and it was funny to see him try to get away from Agamemnon and get back to Ithaka to see his wife and child (it’s been four years since the start of the first volume, and he hasn’t been home at all in that time). Agamemnon wasn’t having any of it, which made it all the more funny. Odysseus even tells him that, since the suitor’s debt (which is what has all these Greeks gathered in the first place, and is making them have to sail to Troy to try to fetch Helen back) was his idea, and as a result he got his wife Penelope out of the deal, he doesn’t even have to be there. There’s also a portion devoted to Agamemnon’s irritation with Palamedes, who keeps undermining Agamemnon without even realizing that he’s doing it. (Odysseus is also annoyed with Palamedes, and it’s this irritation that Agamemnon uses to keep Odysseus in Mycenae.) At one point, all of the men are playing this game, and are content, not fighting, etc. Agamemnon, who’s been caught up in the whole “I must sacrifice my daughter” thing, hasn’t realized what’s been keeping them busy, but it turns out that Palamedes invented the game, which just further irritates Agamemnon, even though he was the one who’d told Palamedes to find something to keep the men occupied. Poor Palamedes just can’t catch a break.
There were some really LOL moments in this volume, particularly when Odysseus tells Agamemnon that he needs to promise all the soldiers that they’ll get Helen, and that they need to advertise just how beautiful Helen is in order to motivate them. So there’s a picture of Odysseus standing on a ship yelling out, “And wait until you see the breasts on her!” which made me crack up, because of all the men there, Odysseus (and possibly Achilles) is the least interested in Helen. And, of course, Menelaus’ reaction to this is basically a *facepalm*. Also, when Agamemnon refuses to sacrifice his daughter, Odysseus basically says, “Well, screw you and your popsicle stand, I’m going back to Ithaka!” And of course Agamemnon can’t have that – Odysseus is so clever that he pretty much saves Agamemnon’s butt throughout this volume – so in order to keep Odysseus from leaving, he has to write to Clytemnestra and ask her to send Iphiginia to the camp so they can get on with it. Odysseus is really too clever for his own good.
My favorite part was probably this bit below. Menelaus throws this giant tantrum because Agamemnon has decided that they won’t sail for Troy until after the winter, and runs off screaming into the hills in anger,
Odysseus: What’s the matter with Menelaus?
Agamemnon: Odysseus, don’t ever fall in love with your wife.
And right after this is when Palamedes accidentally undermines Agamemnon by saying that he’s going hunting to find his men some meat, and won’t they do the same? So, grumbling, Agamemnon and Odysseus head off into the woods because neither one of them can stand Palamedes and certainly can’t have him one-upping them.
Agamemnon: Hunting hedgehogs in the dark…
Odysseus: I hope he trips and breaks his neck.
I also enjoyed the bit where Agamemnon basically called Helen a whore and told Menelaus that he should have kept a closer watch on her and not left her at home with Paris, and then none of this would have happened and they wouldn’t HAVE to go to Troy or wait out the winter, or any of the other things that they’ve gone through just because Helen ran off. Gotta love that older brother irritation with his younger sibling. Only Clytemnestra has a clue that perhaps Helen wanted to run off with Paris; it just shows how arrogant Menelaus and Agamemnon are. Of course, Agamemnon might have a clue, of course, but hasn’t said anything to his brother, while Menelaus remains convinced that Helen was kidnapped. Honestly, if I were Helen, I’m not sure WHICH guy I’d choose. Menelaus has no backbone, but Paris is basically nothing but a good-looking, arrogant ass. In my opinion, Helen would be better off on her own. :-P