Pantheon: The True Story of the Egyptian Deities

Egyptian history is sordid and perversely fun in Hamish Steele's graphic novel Pantheon: The True Story of the Egyptian Deities.

Steele is a freelance animation director and illustrator from London who has worked for the BBC, Random House and Nickelodeon. Pantheon, though, is decidedly not for children. Readers are warned from the onset that it contains "incest, decapitation... and a golden willy," among other things. Adults with a dark sense of humor, on the other hand, may appreciate the cartoon gore and sex. In 12 chapters, Steele presents the deity myth of Horus and Set, who battle for the future of the Egyptian throne and, by extension, the fate of humanity. The gods' endless betrayals and reversals of fortune build to a glorious conclusion.

Those unfamiliar with the Osiris myth will find murdered patriarchs, familial treachery and sexual intrigue reminiscent of Sophocles, Shakespeare or the Old Testament. Steele takes the ancient source material and refreshes it with modern irreverence. His cartoons are colorful and lively, and his dialogue is ironic and hilarious without being bombastic. For example, when Ra and the celestial cow Nut are explaining the newly created afterlife for humans--"the bad ones will get eaten by a demon, and before that they'll have to go through several trials and face hundreds of snakes"--the trickster and usurper Set answers with characteristically playful humor: "Sounds hot."

Pantheon never takes itself too seriously, which makes its presentation of mythology all the more enjoyable. Readers may find Steele provides some genuine education in the process. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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