Saturday, February 10, 2007


You Need This - Pantheon High

Look, you owe it to yourself and the ones you love to pick up Paul Benjamin and Steven & Megumi Cummings's new TokyoPop series, Pantheon High. It's what the kids call OEL Manga ("Original English Language"), which essentially means it's a story in manga style and format done by American creators, in English. The target audience is "Older Teen (Age 16+)", but I found it a great deal of fun, even though I'm easily a couple of decades past that mark.

Pantheon High is unquestionably the Citizen Kane of high-school-for-demigods stories, and I'll arm-wrestle anyone who says different. Absolutely charming, with moments of genuine humor, real suspense, and loads of cleverness, it's really much better that it has any right to be. Don't believe me? Chek out Publishers Weekly's review, which describes the book as "Stunning in its ambition", a "one-of-a-kind work that entertains with intelligence and humor." None to shabby, no?

I was pleasantly reminded of Sidekicks, though Pantheon High is a bit more over the top than J. Torres and Takeshi Miyazawa's school for superheroes (in a good way). I suppose I was also reminded of Hero High and Galaxy High and any number of other high-school-for-extraordinary-kids sorts of stories, but then I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.

The basic plot is simple, deceptively so, and to recount it in any detail would spoil too many surprises, to suffice to say that the action spans one day in the life of a bunch of high school age demigods, and while at the outset it seems like it will be a sort of mythological John Hughes flick, with tensions between the popular kids, the outsiders, the geeks, the jocks -- which it is, have no doubt -- it quickly becomes apparent that a more sinister story is unfolding.

The first volume ends with some annotations on the mythological references, which will no doubt prove useful to kids approaching this sort of material for the first time, and with a preview of volume 2, which makes me eager for its release (the brief: our heroes have to temporarily transfer to the rival high school for demigods, full of Aztec, Indian, Babylonian, and Polynesian pantheons, where the kids at their own school are predominately Greek, Egyptian, Norse, and Japanese, as near as I can tell).

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