Page 45 Review by Stephen
Far more devious than I initially gave this credit for, with clues scattered throughout in seemingly spurious asides, this tale of two worlds - one above, the other below - plays with the Eleusinian Mysteries, recasting the roles and relationships of Persephone, Demeter and Hades. What I originally thought were plot holes transpired to be omissions intentionally left open so that when the right (or wrong) person finally walks through the doors it all makes a great deal of terribly sad sense.
In a book which will confound preconceptions, the opening and closing of gates, or portals with prove pivotal to the proceedings.
Thirteen years ago there was a war that should never have happened.
It was waged between the realms of fertile Eleusis which prospered in light above ground and cold, dark infernal Hades where nothing green ever grows. The two realms, linked by a magic portal, had had their fair share of misunderstandings, suspicion and strife, but nonetheless conducted a mutually beneficial, thriving trade and prospects for future peace looked bright when the youngest princess of Eleusis was married to Hades, Lord of the Underworld and, truth be told, they did love each other dearly.
Alas, Hades' happiness was destroyed when his queen died, and the new trust between the two nations was shattered too, a fission only widened by bitter Hades' increasingly unfathomable behaviour and obsession with what lay behind the forbidden gates of Tartarus in his own realm. From there he gained vast power and you know what they say about power. He craved more magic power, but there was none to be had down below. Only Eleusis had mages. They fought the Lord and his hoards tooth and nail, finally beating him back after two years of carnage and ended his life. Specifically it was sorceress Demeter of Eleusis who killed him, but at a cost, and as the graphic novel begins we find her distraught, holding a bloodied babe in her arms. She seals two vast doors, then crosses the River Styx, carrying the child up hundreds of echoing stone steps, through a vast golden arch and the Eleusinian soldier who tries to stop her will never forget the moment he tried.
The portal between the Hades and Eleusis is closed from above ground forever. Only magic can open it, and there is no magic below.
Thirteen years later and will look at the light!
Centropolis appears to be a prospering European city some half a century ago judging by the cars and fashions, and boasts some lovely Baroque architecture.
I wonder what happened to Hades?
No matter, school's out for summer and Persephone and her friends have had their exam results back. Botany aside, Persephone is hardly a grade-A student. Remember, if you went on to Sixth Form, when you had start specialising, deciding which subjects to study? Big life decision, and it seems to come earlier in Eleusis. One of the friends is being pressured by her Dad to go into the family bakery business instead; she assumes Persephone will want to join her mother Demeter in magic, and eventually take over her potion shop.
"You're lucky you're a witch's daughter. My mom says that it's getting rarer, since it's hereditary. So it'll always be in demand!"
Yes, but there you have it: magic is hereditary. Persephone hasn't told her friends that she is adopted. And Demeter hasn't told Persephone why.
We're only a dozen or so pages in, but I'm not going to go that much further. Except... something surely impossible happens. The city square is attacked by Shades. A soldier from Hades has been rumoured to have been roaming Centropolis and here lies the proof. But how could the portal have been breached?
I wonder once more: what has been happening in Hades?
You'll find out, because that's where the vast majority of the book's set, and it won't be what you expect. Propaganda abounds wherever you roam and do remember that Lord Hades went mad. Don't believe everything you read about a country: you certainly can't judge its inhabitants by their rulers. Also, you can't judge all daughters or sons by their parents.
Damn. I really don't think I can write much more, and I've so many pieces of glorious interior art to show you.
The colours and light are phenomenal and there's all the contrast you'd expect between above and below, but yet again, don't imagine Hades will be all gloom and doom and unkindness. If bright summer light falls upon objects upstairs, then it radiates from them below decks. At one point we're shown some astronomy telescopes down there which did make me laugh.
The art owes a little to Hayao Miyazaki and more to Joann Sfar with lots of GLISTER's Andi Watson thrown in, especially when it comes to Hades' architecture and crowd scenes, but I couldn't stop thinking of Kevin O'Neill, especially when it came to Demeter who does love her hats. There's a wee bit of manga melodrama and an element of anthropomorphism is Azrael, but however much he looks like a cat, he is human as you'll discover.
You'll get plenty of action and fair few more rules will come into play that I don't want to clutter you up with here. Magic needs its rules or else it's all hocus pocus, devoid of dramatic tension, and it will all prove very clever, I promise.