I’ve had a rocky relationship with Frank Miller’s prequel series from the start. The story has been rather vague in its approach, leaning on the visuals to carry things forward. Thankfully, the last issue was an excellent combination of both, working to deliver on the character of Xerxes which got me hyped up for this next issue.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The mantle has passed. The god-king is dead. Darius III is now both king of Persia and Pharaoh of Egypt. But a tiger force strikes in Asia Minor on a collision course with Persian forces.
Why does this matter?
Frank Miller is writing another story within the world of 300 which begs your attention if you’re familiar with that story. It’s also a historical fiction which isn’t the easiest genre to find in comics. Plus, Miller is actually drawing this series which is a rare thing these days.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue begins to delve into Alexander’s role in the story who has up until this issue been nonexistent. Seeing as his name is in the title, that may come as a surprise. That’s a relief since much of this series has been exposition. By the end of the issue, the conflict is ever present and should be delivered in full force next issue. If you dig war comics you’ll enjoy the fighting going on here with spears being thrust through people, horses crushing the enemy, and a general sense of chaos rendered well here.
This issue continues the trend of double page layouts, usually with two panels or fewer with a smattering of full-page layouts too. Miller’s style isn’t quite as detailed or expertly rendered, but it leaves an impression. If you like his style there’s plenty to enjoy here — some panels are poster worthy pin-up style images. In one great double page layout, we get a shot of Persians walking on the edge of a cliff with more Persians walking down in the crack of said cliff. The detail on their armor is good and you get a sense of the eclectic bunch that makes up this army.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The narrative is incredibly difficult to follow. The pages in this book are loosely tied together via captions and there’s not much of the main character. It’s more about showing off the chaos of war, but if you’ve read this far you may be sick of that aspect since it has been the majority of the series so far. The pinup-style art gives one the impression Miller isn’t bothered by telling a coherent story either. Some of it feels as if the pages are there just to pad out the issue. The lack of the main character in this issue becomes even more obvious when compared to issue #3 since Xerxes was written so well.
The bottom line is this series has little substance and instead leans on the visuals of Miller to deliver any semblance of entertainment. Frankly that grows tiresome after a few pages in part because backgrounds tend to be flat with no detail at all.
Is it good?
After the fantastic third issue, this latest chapter lets you down big time. It’s a book that’s mostly pinup-style art with very little story to speak of. It’s a war comic, so if you want your comics bloody and chaotic you’ll probably dig this, but leaning the entire point of a book on this doesn’t seem to be working.