After reading the, quite frankly, stunning Hundred Nights of Hero, I HAD to check out Isabel Greenberg’s debut graphic novel, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. Needless to say that I wasn’t disappointed but compared to Hundred… there is a marked difference.
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth showcases Greenberg’s ability to create a complicated story and yet make it so effortlessly. If one were to pick apart the book’s plot one would get a story of a story of many stories leading one main story. To make it less confusing it is about a couple who are from different polar regions, unfortunately they cannot be near each other so the husband talks about his life story. It turns out that he is a storyteller and on his travels he collects stories from different areas around the globe. Like all good stories the one about the couple as its own conclusion as well.
The Encyclopedia has a lot of traits that Greenberg uses to the full on Hundred Nights of Hero. There’s the aforementioned multi-leveled storytelling. There’s the homages to various myths around the world with focus on Sumerian/Babylonian and Norse mythology. Even the same characters such Bird Man and his offspring Kid and Kiddo are first introduced in Encyclopedia and used to a greater effect in the next volume. I also like the fact that we get glimpses of some details in this volume, one example being the three moons of the early Earth, which is further developed in the Hundred Nights of Hero.
The main message of this volume is the power of stories and the spoken word. By mixing and matching various myths Greenberg has created her own unique take on mythology and like all myths they interconnect in clever ways.
However since I read the second volume first, I felt like this was a prelude. It did help me understand the origins of the Bird Man mythology but I felt that everything, including the artwork was executed in a better fashion in Hundred Nights of Hero. Nonetheless The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is an essential gateway of this intricate story that Greenberg is slowly shaping.