Twenty years after the epic ‘300’ Frank Miller returns with the long awaited tale of the Persian King Xerxes, his march on Greece and the bloody battle he wages. All the while Alexander The Great is also on the rise.
XERXES: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF DARIUS AND THE RISE OF ALEXANDER #1
Story: Frank Miller
Artist: Frank Miller
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Additional Xerxes Illustration: Paula Andrede
Publisher: Dark Horse
What You Need to Know:
After the defeat of his father, the Persian king Darius, Xerxes sets out on a grand quest to create an empire the likes of which the world has never witnessed. Meanwhile, the Greeks are on a similar mission, thanks to their leader Alexander The Great.
What You’ll Find Out:
Our tale opens 499 B.C. and the Ionian Greeks are joined by their Athenian brethren in a rebellion against Persian forces. Barely victorious the victory cost them the city of Sardis, prized city of the Ionians and Darius swears retribution for the uprising.
Some 9 years later and approximately 100 Persians set sail towards Athens in order to test defenses and maybe even kill the commander. The Athenians aren’t worried though, believing the volcanic landscape and cruel wind will cool their ardor. The gods will protect them. They have also sent spies to sow discord and worry among the Persian forces with tales of fearful Spartans lying in wait when in truth it is only men of the land such as fishermen and blacksmiths.
We are introduced to soldiers among them such as Aeskylos, who breaks rank and attacks the horde alone with dreadful accuracy and the captain, Themistokles who loses his helm and breaks his spear wading in alongside. As Aeskylos asks the captain if he wants him to send one back as a warning he is told no. The final soldier is dealt with mercilessly. Knowing the next battle will be fought alone without the Spartans as they practice their festival of Carneia, Themistokles instructs his men to rest.
Miltiades warns that although Darius is departing to head for Athens a contingent will be left behind to fight them and suggests breaking Phalanx maneuver to deny the enemy their victory. As he leaves, however, Themistokles has a different opinion. As dawn breaks the lines of battle are drawn including that of Ethiopian archers with various poison-tipped arrows. Miltiades delivers a rousing speech and as Themistokles mocks, Aeskylos begs his captain to don his helmet and the men wade into battle wearing armor half their weight. Despite the offer of terms for the submission from Darius, the Athenians fight on to a man, aware that those they fight are no different to them.
Nevertheless, Persian soldiers fall in the ruthless battle and are slaughtered as they retreat. Hundreds of Athenians die but take thousands of the enemy with them. Aeskylos collects Scythian javelins and as they ponder their victory Miltiades reminds them it’s not over. As the Persians retreat it’s on to Athens.
What Just Happened?
As we dive back into the world that spawned the epic “300”, a fable spotlighting the legendary Spartan saga, it is just as fresh and visceral today as it was then. The characters almost literally jump off the page and take a swipe at your very neck with their weapons of war and the gold dripping Darius is as godlike as his son in the previous tale. From the two opposing factions, we can see some fierce warriors are set to alter the fates of their own homelands forever.
The scenery here is worthy of the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the battle of the Norman conquest of England. Right from the title page to the final image of the blood-spattered shield it lends itself to blockbuster movie status and the page layout is on a grand scale. Especially with the use of several double-page splash scenes. The art itself is stunning, from the battle lines being set up in the dawning sun to the bloody fighting itself. As all war epics go there is a demand for blood and this is no different.
Frank Miller delivers a tale of insurmountable odds, once again in his own imitable style, accompanied by a hefty 30 pages of breathtaking art. Joined by Alex Sinclair, who also added his coloring talents to Franks previous opus, Dark Knight: Master Race (the third volume of his Dark Knight Returns trilogy) we can see the pair are a match made in the bowels of a war-torn Hell. With this long-awaited companion tale to the original five-issue series, we would do well to remember it is a mind-boggling twenty years old now. It’s been long wait folks.
Final Thought: With issue 2 scheduled for release on 2nd May it’s not long to wait for those with a thirst for blood.
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