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‘Tales of The Orishas’ HC (review)

Written and Illustrated by Hugo Canuto
Published by Abrams ComicArts/Megascope

 

As a kid, I devoured any myth or legend I could get my hands on.

That being the case, I was thoroughly consumed with stories of the Greek Gods, and when I ran through those myths, I devoured Norse mythology and followed up with Egyptian mythology.

While Egypt is in Africa, except for tales of Anansi the Spider and The Sundiata, I never found enough myths about Africa or people of color that satiated my young appetite.

If only the Megascope imprint existed when I was in my formative years.

Megascope, an imprint of Abrams Books, is dedicated to showcasing speculative and nonfiction works created by and about people of color.

Hugo Canuto’s Tales of the Orishas is not only an homage to Jack Kirby and the Silver Age of comics, but also a love letter to Brazil’s people, culture, and history, most notably Canuto’s homeland of Bahia.

Tales of the Orishas won the Angelo Agostini Award for the best new release of 2020 and was nominated for Brazil’s highest literary honor, the Jabuti Award.

For those familiar with Kirby’s New Gods, Tales of the Orishas combines the imagery and fantastic nature of Kirby’s Fourth World with Afro-Brazilian myths that are easily on par with the adventures of Orion, High-Father, Big Barda, Mr. Miracle, and Darkseid.

The mythical past of Ancient Africa inspires the graphic novel. Based on the myths of the Yoruba people, one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, Canuto crafts a breathless adventure that sweeps readers along for a cosmic battle between the forces of god and evil that would put Black Panther and Wakanda on notice. The content of Canuto’s collected work is comparable to the richness of Homer’s Iliad or the Odyssey.

Like Asgard, readers enter the world of the Orishas, set during the ancient time when Heaven and Earth were united as two halves of a gourd.

During those days, “the men of fame” still roamed the Earth, deities and mighty heroes standing side by side with mere mortals. They fought battles that shook heaven and Earth and taught humankind the way of Ashe. Like the Gods of the Greek pantheon, they ruled with love and intensity, but unlike those Gods, they were not capricious or petty and were allies and protectors of humanity.

Some of those protectors descended from the luminous Orun. Men and women are born to live their lives and fulfill their destinies. Others were born in Aiye (the mortal real) and, through their extraordinary deeds, became Orishas.

Tales centers around a celestial battle between the deities from the Brazilian pantheon, a fearsome conquering force led by an evil overlord, and a fallen Orisha turned traitor to his people. Queen Oshus summoned the heroic King Shigo to defend the City of Waters, threatened by the conqueror and his invading force. By Shango’s side is his fellow Orisha, Oya, the lady of lightning, the comical messenger Exu, and warrior Ogun.

Canuto’s work is a masterpiece that is worthy of great praise and acclaim and scratched an itch that I had long forgotten existed.

Final Score: 5 out of 5

 

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