January 4, 2009

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Bacchus Volume 1

Written by Eddie Campbell
Illustrated by Eddie Campbell
Top Shelf

And here it is, the first trade paperback finished in 2009, a grab from the Top Shelf sale over the holidays. You may know Eddie Campbell as a collaborator with Alan Moore, and from reading Bacchus, it's clear that the two have a storytelling style that matches up neatly.

Bacchus is about exactly who you'd think it's about--the Roman god of wine. Except that he's not quite the man he used to be. You see, immortality is not in fact forever--Zeus went senile, for instance, and most of the other gods would have aged terribly had there not been a horrible fight on Olympus as they aged.

As we meet Bacchus, he's out for revenge on Theseus, for crimes against the woman who gave him the keys to solve the labyrinth. The story winds between past and present, as we we see the two go after each other in modern times, and Bacchus tells a "follower" (in a nice way to get the back story in) the history between them.

Campbell plies the trade of updating Greek and Roman myth as deftly as others who've done similar work, such as Gaiman. If you love the old mythology, this is going to be an instant hit with you. It works less well for those not interested in the old stories, but I think the plot--revenge plotted over centuries with modern-age pawns used as fodder--will appeal to you anyway. The artwork is sketchy and line-based, like Bill Sienkiwicz, only a bit cleaner. Given the age of the players involved, this works well.

The story's real shine, however, is how well Campbell adapts the personality quirks of the mythical figures into modern terms. Bacchus only drinks wine, of course, and sitll revels when he can. Theseus is a dick to those around him, throwing them away as needed. And the only character I've refused to name--because it's just too cool and must be left for the reader to find--is just screwed up enough to really add a needed wild card into the mix.

If there's a problem with Bacchus, it's that I can't find Volume 2 anywhere, and Top Shelf is not doing a printing of it because of the Omnibus coming out in 2010. So I may be over a year finding out what happens next!

If you can find more than one volume of this one, I think it's well worth it. Campbell is a great new writer/artist (to me, I realize he's been doing this for over 20 years now) and I definitely want to read more of his work.