Athena Voltaire is a series of comics centred on a 1930s aviatrix with a side line in fending off the occult and thwarting Nazis. It was initially written by Steve Bryant and Paul Daly, and drawn by Bryant; Daly later left.
Athena Voltaire has had a complicated publication history. It originally launched in 2002 as a webcomic, but later shifted to print with a series called Flight of the Falcon (published in 2006). That was followed by a print collection of the webcomics. Later, in 2015, reworked, expanded, and renamed versions of the existing stories were released in the Athena Voltaire Compendium. Two more stand-alone stories followed. In 2018, an ongoing series began, written by Bryant and drawn by Ismael Canales.
As it currently stands, the Athena Voltaire canon can probably be said to consist of the following:
- Athena Voltaire Compendium:
- In Athena Voltaire and the Brotherhood of Shambalha, she travels to Hong Kong, Burma, and Tibet to stop the Nazis reaching a lost city of the ancients and claiming its power.
- In Athena Voltaire and the Feathered Serpent, she goes to the jungles of South America in a race against the Nazis to summon a fabled Inca monster.
- In Athena Voltaire and the Isle of the Dead, she is hired to help look for a sunken treasure, but finds that there is (of course) more to it than that.
- In Athena Voltaire and the Vampire Queen, she reunites with some old friends in the southwestern United States to defeat a vampire, and to save that vampire's two daughters.
- In Athena Voltaire and the Immortal Power, she is recruited to rescue a scientist from the Nazis in the Middle East before they can use his work to perform a ritual.
- Subsequent stand-alone stories:
- In Athena Voltaire and the Wings of Death (an 8 page digital-only story), she has to escape from some Malay pirates and deal with the demon they've gone and summoned.
- In Athena Voltaire and the Volcano Goddess (a three-issue miniseries which was Kickstarted here), she goes to Hawaii to fight Nazis and (as the title indicates) a volcano goddess.
- Ongoing series:
- In Athena Voltaire and the Sorcerer Pope, she tries to beat the Nazis to an artefact which belonged to Pope Sylvester II, whose enemies claimed he was a sorcerer.
- In Athena Voltaire and the Golden Dawn, she goes in search of a previously undiscovered work by Leonardo da Vinci, and has to face off against both Nazis and mobsters.
The comics contain examples of:
- Ace Pilot: Athena is an aviatrix by profession, having been part of an air circus (which she got involved with thanks to her father, who knew people in the world of travelling entertainment thanks to being a stage magician). She then became a pilot for hire, which is behind most of her adventures.
- Ancient Order of Protectors: The Brotherhood of Shambalha was created to preserve the mysteries of the ancients (and specifically, to stop people finding or entering their city, Agharta). They were given certain supernatural powers to aid in this; one of these seems to be predicting the future and/or instant communication, since their members everywhere always know Athena's name even when that shouldn't be possible.
- And I Must Scream: Fontenda was effectively immortal, but was chained in the hold of a ship when it sank. He was down there for years, and had to scratch his way out.
- Brits Love Tea: Desmond Forsyth, a British secret agent, is surprised to find a fine cup of tea in Tibet, and asks his host whether he was an Englishman in a previous life.
- Came Back Wrong: This is what happens when people who are already dead are exposed to the waters of the Fountain of Life; the crew of Fontenda's ship were killed in a pirate attack, but then brought back as zombies when barrels of Fountain water which were on board burst.
- Escape Artist: Athena met all sorts of interesting people thanks to her father's work as a Stage Magician; one was Harry Houdini, a close family friend who became her godfather. Since her own work occasionally gets her tied up by Nazis, having received a few lessons from him comes in useful.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Desmond Forsyth says that Ethan Storm studied under Aleister Crowley (who, in real life, got dubbed "the wickedest man in the world"), but that Crowley "found Storm to be too intent on exploring the dark side... which is saying a lot".
- Expy: Athena obviously has a lot in common with Indiana Jones (as the author directly acknowledges with some bonus art of the two characters meeting◊). However, they're not identical — one difference being that Athena is an Ace Pilot rather than an Adventurer Archaeologist.
- Evil Is Not a Toy: Major Klimt and Herr Faust (a Meaningful Name, that) really don't know what they're doing, and Athena thinks the smart response would be to just sit back and watch the fireworks.Athena: Let me get this straight... Ada wanted you to perform a ritual that no one understands, and, if it works, no one has any idea what it does? On top of that, even if you don't perform the ritual, she's prepared your understudy to give it a try — even though he knows even less about it than you do. Call me crazy, but I say we just let 'em try.
- Famous-Named Foreigner: Athena Voltaire shares a name with the famous Voltaire, but Voltaire isn't actually a real French name — he invented it as a pen name. However, Athena's father was a well-known performer, and it's quite possible it wasn't his real name either — he may have borrowed Voltaire for the stage, and since Athena became part of his act, she may have become known by it too.
- Fountain of Youth: A Spanish explorer, Hernando de Escalante Fontenda, discovered the Fountain of Youth. The effects lasted a while, but had to be refreshed from time to time. Eventually, however, he noticed that the Fountain was showing signs of depletion; rather than risk returning one day to find it gone, he filled up as many barrels as he could. The ship he put them on, however, was sunk — setting up the plot of Athena Voltaire and the Isle of the Dead.
- Ghostapo: While the supernatural elements and the Nazi-fighting elements of the series aren't always intertwined, they often are; the Nazis are after some sort of occult advantage, and need to be thwarted. The Thule Society is a prominent antagonist.
- Holy Water: In Athena Voltaire and the Vampire Queen, Athena kills the titular queen's daughters (whom she was too late to save) with a concealed vial of holy water, which causes them to burst into flame.
- Homage Shot: Athena escapes pursuit by swinging out on a vine, dropping into the water, and swimming out to her float plane. This is probably a homage to a scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, since Athena Voltaire has no shortage of comparison points to Indiana Jones.
- Human Sacrifice: In Athena Voltaire and the Feathered Serpent, summoning the titular serpent properly requires a human sacrifice. Athena's escape means that the summoning is done improperly (meaning fatally, for a lot of the Nazis involved).
- Kidnapped Scientist: Well, held captive, anyway. Werner Lang is a German researcher, but would no longer be working with the Nazis if he had any say in the matter. However, the Nazis want his research, and Athena is sent to rescue him.
- Immortality Seeker: The Spanish explorer Fontenda searched for the Fountain of Youth, and found it. However, it eventually started to dry up, so he stored as much of its water as he could. The barrels in question are what Vargas is looking for in Athena Voltaire and the Isle of the Dead — because Vargas is really Fontenda, desperate to regain the water.
- Invisible to Normals: Athena and Desmond both go into the temple of the Brotherhood of Shambalha, but only Athena sees anything there (and doesn't realise that Desmond isn't seeing anything — she only finds out later). Exactly why this is isn't stated, but it's probably a choice of the Brotherhood.
- Mistaken for Servant: Athena is theoretically helping Desmond Forsyth on his mission, but because she's the one attuned to the supernatural goings-on, it's her people are waiting for, and Desmond gets demoted to servant.Narayan: They told me to look for a white-skinned woman with dark hair, travelling with her manservant.
Desmond: Manservant? I'll have you know that I'm a decorated agent of the British Empire!
Athena: Please excuse my manservant, Narayan. He gets cranky after long flights.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Major Klimt has dinner with a captured Athena and colleagues aboard her airship.Athena: Why the fancy dinner now?
Klimt: We are nearing our destination. Perhaps I merely want to gloat. Or persuade Herr Lang to cooperate again. Or perhaps I just wanted a little "girl talk", as you Americans say.
Athena: [sarcastically] Terrific. We can braid each other's hair later.
- Really 700 Years Old: In Athena Voltaire and the Isle of the Dead, the reason that de Vargas knew where to find a 400-year-old shipwreck is that he was personally present when it was made, and has spent the intervening years getting to the point where he can return.
- Shipshape Shipwreck: The wreck of the Devil's Hand is reasonably intact despite having sunk in the Atlantic over a hundred years ago. The damage to the ship (dynamite is required to access the hold) is attributed to the people who sank it, rather than the ocean.
- Snake People: The way to Arharta is guarded by a statue of a four-armed, sword-wielding Naga, and opening the way brings that statue to life. Ethan Storm believes that his ritual will control her; either he's wrong or he's treacherous, because she promptly kills his allies.
- Stage Magician: Athena's father was a notable stage magician, and she picked up a wide range of odd skills from him and the other performers he worked with. One which comes in handy is the Escape Artist experience she got from none other than Harry Houdini, a good family friend.
- The Shangri-La: Athena's visit to Tibet naturally entails visiting a hidden monastery where ancient wisdom can be obtained. The Nazis are after it too.
- Supernatural Fiction: All the stories eventually focus on some sort of supernatural element, in addition to things like aerial dogfights and Nazis. So far we've seen zombies, vampires, and creatures from multiple mythologies.
- Those Wacky Nazis: The Nazis are prominent antagonists in half the stories. The stories are set a little before the start of the war proper, so Athena's conflict with them isn't specifically on behalf of her country — it's just that she keeps running into them when their interest in the occult needs to be thwarted.
- Tuxedo and Martini: Desmond Forsyth, the British secret agent who sometimes works with Athena, seems to be of this school. Athena criticises him for insisting on a nice suit even when there's a good chance of danger.Desmond: Athena, please. I'm representing the British Empire.
Athena: Yeah, well, you look less like you're ready for action and more like you're ready for tea.
- Two-Fisted Tales
- Vampire Monarch: Athena Voltaire and the Vampire Queen is focused on one, as you'd expect from the title. This one is Elizabeth Báthory (who, in real life, was accused of indulging in the odd Blood Bath). She isn't actually served by any lesser vampires at the time of the story (having ghosts and werewolves instead), but is promising her followers to let them serve her as vampires if they're good.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Esteban wants to duel the queen's guard with a sword, which Athena considers a self-indulgent distraction from their goal.Athena: Stop with the pissing contest, Esteban. Just shoot him.
Esteban: That lacks honor. A man is nothing without his honor.
Athena: Suit yourself. At least I remember why we're here.
- Wronski Feint: When under attack by two Japanese fighter planes, Athena knows she's out-gunned and uses this to deal with them instead; one fails to pull out of a dive and hits a river, while another doesn't turn quickly enough to avoid a cliff.
- You Are Too Late: In Athena Voltaire and the Vampire Queen, Athena arrives too late to save the titular queen's daughters from becoming vampires. However, the queen can't control them like she thought, and they kill her (leaving Athena to fight them instead of their mother).