It’s easily one of the most identifiable mythologies in the world. From Disney to Dungeons & Dragons, popular culture has always had a close relationship with Greek Myths; to the extent it feels we’ve seen almost every variation of these characters and the world they inhabit. Sometimes however, you’ll discover a new take on a setting that draws you in right away, and to such an extent that you can’t help but sit up and take notice.
Lore Olympus is a webcomic created by New Zealand writer and artist, Rachel Smythe, published on Webtoon. The Korean website and app publishes in one long vertical strip which is meant to be read just as if you were scrolling down a website. A format Lore Olympus takes full advantage of to tell its story.
It has been described as a modern-day deconstruction of the Greek tale; The Abduction of Persephone. Lore Olympus takes the tale of Hades and Persephone and retells it as a relationship drama in an Olympus that’s portrayed as a series of glitzy modern-day nightclubs, mansions and skyscrapers. The gods are either enjoying a series of parties and social functions or working away in their office blocks desperately trying to meet quotas.
As the series starts, we’re introduced to Hades: a down-on-his-luck singleton in a loveless on/off relationship with the emotionally manipulative nymph Minthe. On top of love-life troubles, he deals with living in the shadow and reputation of his brothers Zeus and Poseidon, who are, of course, on top of the world. Everything changes for the God of the Underworld, however, when he spots a newcomer to Olympus, Persephone the goddess of Spring across the dance floor. Slowly the two are brought together and despite their natural chemistry, have to deal with the complications of life in Olympus, including over-protective friends and family, the long interpersonal histories of the gods as well as rivals for both their affections.
The art style is simply fantastic as Smythe makes sense each character not only displays exaggerated features but a vivid colour them to stand out in their own right. Hades has a deep blue while Persephone is bright pink which means that when they’re together it’s visually striking in a way you don’t see in many other visual stories. It feels very reminiscent of the Disney Hercules film use of colour and it takes that notion and runs with it. Though the backgrounds are muted in comparison, they manage to never seem to fade away. The Underworld is the first location you see in Lore Olympus and with its dark navy buildings and long empty roads it’s a beautiful introduction for the reader into this familiar and yet ultimately unknown world.
The writing too is a treat for the reader, as the dialogue in Lore Olympus flows smoothly from scene to scene. Smythe has a real sense of who these characters are while ensuring that the qualities from their mythological counterparts aren’t forgotten or swept away. Both Hades and Persephone are wonderful characters you’ll just connect with right away, backed up with a supporting cast that grows and changes with us as the series involves. Lore Olympus isn’t afraid to change gears and give more time to these side characters and their day to day struggles either. It just all comes together for a story that is fantastically told and leaves you wanting more.
Sometimes in a retelling of Greek Mythology it’s easy to sanitise it. To wipe the rough edges off and leave the wonder instead of the grim reality that the Gods of Olympus were prone to be petty, vindictive and abusive to both their subjects and each other. Lore Olympus isn’t afraid to broach these difficult subjects. Thanks to the nature of Webtoons, visual cues such as music or animations can be added to chapters to help reinforce the gravity of these situations when the need arrives. When a particular traumatic experience takes place the story slows down just enough to give the reader time to process what is taking place. It’s handled in a very mature manner, and delivers shock value with the care and respect that the sophisticated subject matter deserves.
Overall Rachel Smythe has taken a subject that a lot of people will have a passing familiarity about and has shaped it into something new and exciting with a gorgeous art style that catches the eye every time you load up a new chapter. Thanks to the Webtoon format you can easily read it on your phone or tablet and never feel like you’re missing out making this an easy recommendation for anyone looking to find something new to read while on the go.
So that’s our review on Lore Olympus. But what do you think? Why don’t you tell us who your favourite character is in the comments below. (Though, fair warning we’re Hecate fans here!)