Friends, parties, gossip, love: Holiday Read: Lore Olympus

One of the nicest things about this time of year in the far South, is that things slow down, and there’s time to read.

I’m kicking back with a New Zealand-based web comic, Lore Olympus, written and drawn by Auckland graphic designer, Rachel Smythe. It’s a delightfully romantic retelling of the Hades-Persephone myth, written with wit and flair.

Thoroughly modern lovers–Hades and Persephone on the phone

‘Friends, parties, gossip, and of course love, a modern retelling of the Taking of Persephone.’

Hades is an electric-blue Mr Darcy-esque shy-boy billionaire-type, fully in charge of his underground kingdom, but needing a bit of help in the romance department.

Persephone is a hot-pink curvaceous innocent, whose hair grows at emotional moments, and who is escaping an overbearing helicopter-mother in Demeter.

Blushing Ingenue: Rachel Smythe’s Persephone

The figures of the pantheon come in and out, with side-stories about how they got that way. Eros takes Persephone shopping when she needs a wardrobe boost. An elegant Hera interferes, but only from the best of motives. Zeus, Poseidon and Hades are brotherly rivals, Artemis a sporty sidekick, and Apollo proves to be as thoroughly untrustworthy as the myths associated with him indicate.

Lore Olympus is grounded in research into the variants of the Persephone myth (Smythe lists influences and sources on her tumblr site). It’s wryly aware of the Olympians’ capriciousness, and Smythe seems to relish taking her time with the Hades-Persephone romance. After all, a web comic is episodic, and rewards the reader who enjoys the journey as much as the destination . . .

Lore Olympus is published online through web comics publisher Webtoon, and as you read it, you scroll downwards, following Persephone and Hades into this darkly romantic underworld–Smythe’s pacing and presentation exploits this publication style beautifully.

The Hades-Persephone story is very popular in Young Adult Romance, or Paranormal Fantasy (Goodreads review site lists 167 texts drawing on the myth) and many of them seek to recuperate Hades through his shy-boy persona, drawing on the tradition of the Byronic hero. It’s uneasy territory: the ‘taking of Persephone’ takes us into stories about abduction, rape, and coercion. Lore Olympus is well aware of the challenges of the story, however, and infuses it with strong post- #metoo ethics. Smythe’s Persephone, too, has her own defenses, not least an empowered charm and winning sense of humour.

So, if you are looking to sink into a lush romance with a classical twist, here’s your chance. Lore Olympus already has thousands of readers, and a devoted following: including me–I’m looking forward to reading the next few episodes over the holiday break.

–Elizabeth Hale

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