OH MY GODS!
Writers: Stephanie Cooke & Insha Fitzpatrick
Illustrator: Juliana Moon
Colorist: Whitney Cogar
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
WHAT IS IT?
A middle-age graphic novel about a young girl, Karen, who’s gone to live with her father in Greece while her mother pursues an artist’s opportunity.
Only her dad’s actually Zeus, King of the Greek pantheon, and the school she ends up attending is more than a little mythical.
Think Heathers meets D’Aulaires, with less gore and more Powerpuff Girls thrown in for age-appropriate humor and emotion.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Cooke and Fitzpatrick craft an engaging tale about a tween whose new school jitters collide with a bona fide mystery: someone’s turning people to stone, and Karen’s high on the list of suspects as the new girl at Mt. Olympus Junior High.
Karen’s not too sure why her dad’s acting so strangely, or why there are centaurs running around the school hallways, but her journey and the modernization of deep Greek lore is engaging, heartwarming, and crafted well for audiences of all ages.
First and foremost, the tone of Oh My Gods! is just delightful. Karen’s a believable pre-teen in her interests, speech patterns and emotional trajectory throughout the book. Writing believable dialogue is hard enough for adults, much less kids – Cooke and Fitzpatrick do an admirable job, and it’s easy to get lost in the book after the first few pages.
The heart. Cooke and Fitzpatrick spend a lot of time and effort to make every character relatable, and even tougher cookies like Artemis reveal themselves in ways that feel organic. The squabble over the bow may seem small to some, but we often forget how critical every interaction during puberty can feel. Oh My Gods! digs into that uncomfortable space to good effect.
Books for young adults and kids can feel tiresome if they try to slam home a moral, and Oh My Gods! hits the right balance of authentic storytelling and teachable moments. Keeping things as spoiler-free as possible, there’s important stuff here about acceptance, belonging, and tolerance from multiple story vectors, and they all fuse for an experience that will appeal to kids, young adults, and adults alike.
Zeus’ characterization in particular is a surprise – gone is the vengeful, horny father figure, and we don’t even get a modernized version that’s another flavor of Lore Olympus. Instead, this Zeus is a friendly, cheerful, open-hearted version of the dreaded senex, and it works extremely well. Karen’s relationship with him grows organically over the course of the book, and his brief cameos are amusing and touching in equal measure.
Moon’s art is youthful and effective, with great angular jawlines, facial cartooning, and studied background details. Panel structure is pretty regular but Moon jazzes it up occasionally with Greek-design-inspired border details and, once, a diagonal bottom panel border to add interest to the page.
Cogar uses a lot of careful, clean color gradients for background tone – of particular note are the gold and blue hues in the library and the subtle lateral transition from green to yellow on the lawn as Artemis attempts to teach Karen to shoot (hint: it goes great.)
The diner scene in particular pops because of Cogar’s considered shift to a warmer palette. As we build personal connections in the plot and ease into what could potentially be a social minefield (meeting a person’s group of friends for the first time,) Cogar hints at the potential emotional glow to come with an appropriate set of hues.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The lettering. The font is featureless, has almost no emphasis, and isn’t done to a professional industry standard. The text appears pasted into the balloons and there are obvious padding and butting issues that detract from the otherwise cohesive aesthetic Moon and Cogar work hard to create. There’s an argument to be made for first-time comic readers not noticing this but manga is a multi-decade staple for generations of kids and teens, and similar YA graphic novels are produced with more care. Using a readable font is a good choice, but more attention paid to this critical part of comics craft would help the text gel with Moon’s line and create a truly cohesive reading experience.
There are a few exclamations along the way that feel like an older Millennial wrote them – and as an older Millennial, I relate. Not a detriment, per se!
The stakes around the main plot are good, but there’s a bit of milling around as the team tries to wrap up the story threads that lasts a few pages too long.
The book’s aim is to portray Karen as a relatable teen, but she is impervious at times. The advertised tension in the blurb doesn’t last long enough for us to feel like she’s in any danger of true ostracism or judgment by her peers. This tone will likely work for most people, but there could’ve been a different narrative payoff by slowing down here.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Oh My Gods! has many strengths, not the least of which is the ability to draw us in and keep us flipping pages to see what happens. Immersion is hard, and there’s no blueprint even within a particular sub-genre. Cooke, Fitzpatrick, Moon, and Cogar do earnest work here that pays off.
If you’re a fan of modern (and sweet!) takes on Greek mythology, definitely check this one out. If you’re at all interested in cute, tender, and smart YA comics that center on friendships and family dynamics instead of romantic relationships, grab a copy ASAP. If you’re looking for an easy read that still demands a certain level of emotional investment, and delivers on said investment, look no further.
WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
“Miss Monster” in Wayward Sisters: A Monstrous Anthology by Stephanie Cook & Cara McGee
Heart of the City by Steenz
Sheets by Brenna Thumler
If you like the art:
Gabe’s Plan by Juliana Moon
Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson & Brooke Allen
Giant Days by John Allison, Max Sarin & Lissa Treiman
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Stephanie Cooke (@hellocookie) – Writer
Multi-talented: Cooke’s published a handful of shorts in various anthologies, and is an accomplished comic book editor
Stay tuned for more Oh My Gods! this fall - the team isn’t done with this universe yet
Insha Fitzpatrick (website) – Writer
Multi-talended: You can find Fitzpatrick’s work in the “Uncaged” Vol. 2 anthology, and she is also the Editor in Chief of DIS/MEMBER, a horror website
Fitzpatrick also co-hosts Filmrunners: The Podcast, a weekly release featuring a film one of the hosts hasn’t seen before
Juliana Moon (@notjulianamoon) – Artist
Outlander: Moon hails from Rio de Janiero, Brazil
You can buy Juliana a Ko-Fi and check out her 2018 comic, Gabe’s Plan, too!
Whitney Cogar (@smashpansy) – Colorist
Name Recognition: You might’ve seen Cogar’s work in the seminal Giant Days, as well as Steven Universe, Over the Garden Wall and many other titles
Cogar’s Kenny Omega profile pic on Twitter is the best. That’s all!
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