Skybound’s new series Kill the Minotaur arrived this week, shaking up our impression of Greek mythology and its intersection with history. Written by Chris Pasetto and Christian Cantamessa, with art by Lukas Ketner and colors by Francois Beaulieu, this series reminds us of the long history that comics and mythology have with one another, and the vibrant storytelling that the medium can bring to heroic adventure stories in whatever time or setting.
For those who haven’t heard, Kill the Minotaur is about the struggle between Crete and Athens, whereby King Minos, the ruler of Crete, holds the people of Athens in servitude, demanding tribute each year in order to keep the peace. Enter the prince of Athens, Theseus, who has a number of interesting qualities, but neither the reader nor Theseus are entirely sure he is a hero or should be.
Together with his best friend, they take a gamble on a long shot plan to face Minos’ adopted God-son the Minotaur, guardian of the maze in Crete. And in this forty page opening issue, we get to see all the ways in which this is kind of a terrible plan. Because that’s the kind of comic this is.
There are comics that tell straightforward accounts of mythological tales, in comics-translation, as it were. And they show off the fact that comics can make great textbooks and teaching tools. But Kill the Minotaur is a different kind of story. It’s going to move below the surface of heroism or popular notions of the ancient past and try to humanize the characters, add texture to the daily lives of the people involved, and at all times remind us that ancient life was perilous and uncertain.
In this first issue, we see the supposed “madness” of King Minos, prepared to propitiate the monstrous bull-headed, man-bodied Minotaur, who he believes is his adopted son sent by the Gods, and we understand the fine line the people of Crete walk under his rule.
We also meet the oppressed people of Athens, whose sons and daughters are sent as sacrifices to the Minotaur, and can understand their rage and unrest. Pasetto and Cantamessa add plenty of detail to make this world seem human and knowable for the reader. Lukas Ketner’s art, however, is the crowning achievement here since it’s obvious that he has given about three times as much detail and visual drama to the comic as would, in a basic sense, be necessary to tell this story.
When you check this comic out, look at the backgrounds in every panel. They are always full of extra information, making sure this world doesn’t feel like the dusty, storied past, but instead like something populated, relevant, and immediate. That goes for his designs in clothing, architecture, and the maze itself, too.
At times very funny, at times shocking, Kill the Minotaur is certainly a riveting comic, and if this is what the creative team can do with a first issue, I’m very interested to see where this story is heading. In the background essay included in this issue, the writers talk about how many layers of changes, how many versions, were necessary for them in order to build the labyrinth of this story.
You can see that process at work in the comic, the creation of a much deeper and richer fabric of story than strictly necessary to convey the plot. For that reason, we find ourselves in a world that inspires the imagination and we’re prepared, as readers, to go further into the maze.
Kill the Minotaur #1 arrived in shops on Wednesday, June 14th.