Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Jumping from DC to Fantagraphics-- now there's continuity for you.

AMAZONS is Fantagraphics' 1990 collection of a story by underground cartoonist Frank Stack, concerning a decidely un-Homeric tale of the Trojan War. In it a bunch of Greek foot-soldiers, led by Achilles himself, have a contretemps with mounted Amazon warriors who are fighting on Troy's side.

In visual terms Stack depicts the archaic Greek world with a loose yet dynamic line designed to emulate ancient Greek painting. In terms of dialogue, however, everyone on both sides of the conflict talks like modern underground-comics characters, which means lots of profanity. Even the Amazons, though a little more restrained, have lines like, "It's that big macho faggot Achilles!"

Though the male Greek soldiers are largely depicted as assholes who complain about everything (pretty much like "grunts" across the ages), Stack doesn't purely play the entire tale for comedy. The whole book could be judged a "fight" in that a standoff develops between the Greeks on foot and the mounted women, and Stack gives admirable attention to the military tactics adopted by both sides. As icing on the cake, the Amazon leader Hippolyta has a one-on-one battle with Achilles that's pretty realistic in terms of how much punishment she takes. That said, Stack comes up with a means for the more sympathetic Amazon to come out on top, which is better than the classical figure of the Amazon queen fared in archaic stories.

Even apart from its place in a "best fights" category, Stack's AMAZONS deserves to be better-known by comics-fans of all stripes.

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