New To You Comics: Classic Mythology Meets Modern Horror In ‘Kill The Minotaur’
by Brendan M. Allen
When COVID-19 brought the comics industry to a screeching halt, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature we call New To You Comics.
Comics are on their way back, but we had so much fun with this thing, we decided to keep going.
Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. I tend to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.
We’re here to break up that pattern a little. Tony’s throwing some of his favorites my way, and I’m sending him some of mine. Every title we cover is brand new to one of us, and every stinking one of them is available on digital and mail order platforms, in case your local shop is still closed.
This week, we’ll be kicking around a modern horror interpretation of an ancient Greek myth in Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment’s Kill the Minotaur, by Chris Pasetto, Christian Cantamesa, and Lukas Ketner.
Here’s what Image/Skybound says about the book:
Athens lost the war to Crete. Now, they pay tribute to King Minos by sacrificing their best citizens to his unearthly labyrinth. Conspirators believe Theseus can be the hero they need, who can end the mad king’s bloody reign…but no one on this world has ever encountered anything like the savage minotaur. Chris Pasetto, Christian Cantamesa, and Lukas Ketner reinvent the most fearsome beast in all of mythology with this horrific tale of heroism.
Brendan Allen: I’ve always been fascinated by Greek and Roman mythology, ever since I was a little kid. Theseus and the Minotaur first appeared in Greek literature more than 2,000 years ago. Plutarch, Ovid, and Horace all wrote accounts of the legendary confrontation, but the story is actually much, much older, having been passed for generations through oral tradition.
In the classic story, Asterion was a bull-headed monster born to Queen Pasiphae of Crete after she got down with a bull. The beast was imprisoned by King Minos in the center of the Labyrinth, which he had specially made by Daedalus and his son, Icarus. The Minotaur was offered regular human sacrifices to satisfy its cannibalistic hunger. Eventually, Asterion ran up against an Athenian prince named Theseus, and, well…I think we all know how that turned out.
Chris Pasetto and Christian Cantamessa took on a massive challenge (took the bull by the horns?) in bringing such a well-known story to a modern audience with Kill The Minotaur. They took a few liberties with the beast’s origin story, and added a few characters, but left most of the major plot points intact. This version is quite a bit more graphic than the version I read back in grade school.
What did you think?
Tony Thornley: This book was real messed up in some very good ways! I actually hadn’t heard anything about this one before. I remember hearing the title a time or two, but I can’t think of any real press this got or anything. But this should have been huge. It’s so good.
It works on a few different levels. As a sci-fi fantasy book, it lands just right. As it builds into the horror, it gets really effective. Even on a meta level as a deconstruction of myth… It works! Plus, who doesn’t love Greek myth?
Brendan: Right? I love the modern horror spin. So many of the stories we read as kids get watered down from their horrific origins. I actually think Kill the Minotaur dialed it UP from the Greek myth.
One of the big differences between the myth and this book is our hero’s motivation. This Theseus is headstrong, quick-witted, and skilled in hand to hand combat… but he’s also cocky, selfish, and more than a little bit dickish. He spends an awful lot of time trying to find the setup that will get his hero song written.
Tony: This is something in particular I really enjoyed as I read the book. Theseus getting to grow over the course of the series mirrors the classic hero’s journey. However, he doesn’t completely change. He’s still a bit of a jerk even towards the end of the book.
Brendan: Minos comes off as appropriately homicidal and insane. Daedalus is brilliant and more than slightly off center. The dialogue and interactions between characters are well planned and help the reader invest in the story with minimal exposition.
But, the character design and alternative origin story given to Asterion here is what really sold me on this version.
Tony: Oh for sure. The reveal of the minotaur as something unlike what the reader expected? It’s a great move. This isn’t your typical beast man. At first it appears to be some sort of demon, but as the story gets deeper you realize it’s something much more horrifying.
Brendan: I love the art. Lukas Ketner and Jean-Francois Beaulieu nailed this thing to the wall. There’s a ridiculously detailed, hyper-colored, strangely familiar, oddly grotesque, and visually satisfying quality that reminds me of James Stokoe’s work on Orc Stain and Aliens: Dead Orbit.
Tony: I was introduced to Ketner with his work on Witch Doctor, another horror book. He has a great handle on the grotesque. He captures a great sense of the antiquity of it too. It feels like he’s done his research to make sure it’s historically accurate, without being too tied down as well. Hyper-colored is a great way to describe Beaulieu’s colors, because he makes this blood soaked horror labyrinth feel hyper real.
I have to say though, my favorite part of the book is the labyrinth. The twist of the book is that the labyrinth is a living alien starship. That twist informs the entire series, as it makes the maze as alive and vibrant as the humans or the monstrous alien minotaur it’s imprisoning.
Brendan: That’s the part that really brought up the Stokoe / Dead Orbit comparison for me. There’s a kind of organic, living quality to the whole structure.
Tony: And he does it without going to the obvious place- HR Giger– which I know he’s capable of homaging, like he does a few times in Witch Doctor. Both the ship and the minotaur are freakish and grotesque in original ways. It’s really strong work.
Brendan: I think you tipped it already, but where’d you land on this one?
Tony: Definite win. It’s creepy and exciting sci-fi horror, even without the retelling of the classic myth.
Brendan: I’ll take it. What do we have on deck for next week?
Tony: We’re going to continue our month of horror with one of the most epic horror series of the last few years, Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key Volume 1!
Kill The Minotaur TP, collects chapters 1-6, Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment, 31 January 2018. Created and written by Chris Pasetto and Christian Cantamessa, art by Lukas Ketner, color by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, letters by Clem Robins.
Some of your local shops have re-opened. As always, we’d like to ask that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.
If your local comic store is still closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, you can find a digital copy at Comixology for $15.
Brendan and Tony kick around a modern horror retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur in Image Comics’ Kill the Minotaur.