Webcomic Wednesday: Pantheon
Review by Seán Donnelly
Created by SJ Moloney
Pantheon’s second chapter is known as “Culture Shock in Kemet” and with very good reason; the webcomic details the convergence of various gods, mythological figures and cultural heroes from across the world. Akin to other works such as Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the main appeal of Pantheon lies in how the deities from different pantheons (which range widely from Greek to Shinto to Norse mythology) interact with one another. For the first few chapters, the story follows the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu (or “Ammy”). She is a cheerful, buoyant character whose wanderlust moves the story along at a reasonable pace, as well as serving as an audience surrogate. It is through Amaterasu that we experience the deep, involved world of Pantheon and it is to the comic’s benefit that she is as endearing as she is.
Character is perhaps the most important element of Pantheon, as juggling various pantheons is a Herculean (no pun intended) task for any storyteller, not to mention being able to distinguish all of them. To the author SJ Moloney’s credit, they are more than up to the task. The characters are vividly realised, with Amaterasu being rendered in bright primary colours to make her not only stand out, but to signify her positivity as a character. The pantheons feature culturally appropriate attire and markings to distinguish one another and it is a real accomplishment that Moloney manages to give the members of each pantheon as much individuality as they have. This is accomplished through appropriate writing as well as artistic tricks, such as the differing font styles that characters such as Grace O’Malley possess.
Speaking of art, it is perhaps Pantheon’s strongest aspect. Character designs are strong and detailed without getting lost in the minutiae, with colour and personality imbuing them with life as previously mentioned. There are times where the art and writing dovetail to create fun character moments, such as the running joke of Amaterasu accidentally blinding people with sunlight. It is these moments that lend Pantheon the personality and sense of fun that makes it readable, yet there are hints of a deeper storyline unfolding that adds weight to Amaterasu’s travels. It is in many ways reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which featured modernised incarnations of cultural figures interacting with one another (something alluded to in Amaterasu’s character; she is very much influenced by trends). In the end, Pantheon repurposes old stories and legends to create something very new and interesting indeed, but still retaining the mythic heft of its subject matter.