Dark Horse has dubbed this new Frank Miller series as a companion to 300, which should get folks who adored the original (now deemed a classic) very excited. Readers who saw the movies and didn’t read the book might be surprised by the approach to the story, but comic readers familiar should be able to dive right in. That said, is it good?
So what’s it about?
Read our preview.
Why does this matter?
Frank Miller is back to writing and drawing which is a rare thing these days. Not since the mini backup books in The Dark Knight: Master Race has Miller done both. He’s also backed up by Alex Sinclair on colors and they’re producing a work in the same wide format as the original 300, which is exciting.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This brings back memories.
Opening in 499 B.C. and then cutting to 490 B.C., this tale takes place 9 years before 300 and focuses on a group of Athenians who are fighting off Persian invaders. The comic is similar to 300 as it’s all about war, the joy in combat, and the characters who are very good at what they do. Miller romanticizes the violence which should come as no shock. Told mostly through captions, Miller draws your attention to each barbaric slice through skull as a poet might utter a sonnet to a crowd. It certainly revels in the maiming and murdering required of a soldier.
Miller takes some interesting leaps and bounds when it comes to the visuals and he’s clearing using photoshop to pull the imagery together. It doesn’t always work (more on that later) but the occasional blood splattered background silhouetted with nearly naked bodies cutting through each other has a nice touch. He also uses the wide format well with soldiers eight-deep pushing forward in the top of one page, soldiers with shields ready in the middle, and both armies coming together at the bottom, for instance.
Check out that jump!
It can’t be perfect can it?
There is art in this book that is too simplistic, to the point of looking unfinished. The photoshopping can be glaringly obvious too (like a real cloud background juxtaposed with flat silhouettes of ships and then pieces of armies strewn about the page in one full page layout). There’s is a lack of effort when it comes to backgrounds, textures in clothing, and animals that is so glaring you’ll be taken out of the story. If you were to open a random page of 300 to any page in this book you’d probably find it hard to believe it’s the same artist.
The story also lacks any interesting characters. There’s the budding of a hero with a chip on their shoulder, but for the most part this narrative is all about the joy of war. Xerxes, the title character and villain of the title doesn’t make an appearance either.
Is It Good?
At first glance I wasn’t sure if I’d like this book, but I found myself enjoying the revelry of war only Frank Miller is capable of. There is an energy to it all that brings you back to the ancient days where men fought and blood was spilled in the sand of a battlefield. It’s just unfortunate that battlefield looks unfinished in a book that lacks the grit and detail that made 300 such a joy to read.
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