Frank Miller is back at it this week with the second issue of his prequel to his beloved 300 series. The first issue set up a different kind of battle with some slightly subpar art, and yet I was thirsty for more of his blood-drenched captions.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Persian King Darius is out for blood after the battle of Marathon, deploying an army to vanquish the city of Athens. The citizen soldiers of Athens are prepared with a ruse to stave off invasion, but should their gamble fail, it will be a slaughter.
Why does this matter?
Frank Miller is not only writing, like he did with the recent Dark Knight: Master Race, but drawing this series. That’s a rare thing for the creator who hasn’t drawn a lot in the last few years. Plus, this series adds to the mythos he established in 300 developing Xerxes, the main villain of that series, which flips the script so to speak.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue opens with the Athenians licking their wounds after their army took massive losses in the last issue. The Persians are coming, and Athens may burn soon. Miller focuses the narrative on a soldier with the strategic mind that could save his people. The captions continue to be interesting and compelling, drawing your eye across the landscape-orientated pages. This issue begins to show us how Xerxes becomes the character we know from 300 which should have fans of that series excited.
The art in this issue is stronger than the last. Gone is the obvious Photoshopped imagery as this issue looks much more traditionally drawn. There are some inspired double page layouts too, which help cast Athens in a beautiful light. The place is worth saving, which helps you root for the good guys to beat back the Persians.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The art may be better than the last, but the gritty textured look of 300 is still missing from this issue. Miller’s lines are quite simple — sometimes too simple for their own good — and that simplicity can be seen in some of the panel progression. In a key action scene, for instance, it’s hard to fully understand how a character gets the upper hand. It required I reread the pages to understand what exactly happened. Some of the transitions between moments are lost too, thanks a background that lacks any detail (to convey an emotion most likely, but it still makes it tricky to understand where you are) or progression jumps without a moment’s notice. The pacing is definitely wonky.
Ultimately, this issue is a quick read, reducing the overall enjoyment. I can see this being a real blast when collected in a trade, but as it stands this issue only gives you four scenes.
Is it good?
A good issue that’s rendered better than the last, but it loses you with poor pacing and some art decisions that can confuse. As it stands this will be a better read when collected, but if you’re dying for Frank Miller’s latest, you’ll enjoy reading this series.
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