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Originally published in 1998 as a 5 part monthly series, Frank Miller writes and illustrates his interpretation of the Battle of Thermopylae, perhaps one of history's greatest defeats. It is coloured and set out in a double page spread. Miller took inspiration for the book from the 1962 film, 'The 300 Spartans' which he originally saw as a child.
The book tells the story of Leonidas, King of Spartans. When the emissary of the Persian ruler Xerxes visits Sparta and demands its' surrender, Leonidas draws a small army of 300 men to oppose the vast millions of Xerxes army in what will undoubtedly be a suicide mission. He masses his men at the cliffs of Thermopylae (which translates as the Hot Gates) and there the battle lines are drawn.
The book is split into the five parts and each carries its' original title, they are Honor, Duty, Combat, Glory and Victory. The story tells the tale in a historically inaccurate way, but still manages to conjure up themes of betrayal and duplicity in a wonderfully illustrated world.
The book has not been without its' controversies. Being a story with historic basis means that any inaccuracies will be seized upon and highlighted and this book is no different. The manner of the Spartans attitude to homosexuality has also led to criticism, specifically from respected comic writer Alan Moore. Make no mistake this is not for kids.
At 88 pages it isn't the longest piece of work going, but that does not detract from the hours of joy you can get from just staring at it. Each watercolour Lynn Varley illustration is a work of art worthy of hanging from any wall. You can pick the hardback version of this from Amazon for £13.47. This book formed the basis of the Zack Snyder film of the same name starring Gerard Butler. While this was very enjoyable, I would still recommend this to anyone, adults that is.
Frank Miller was inspired to write his take on the famous battle at Thermopylae. For those of you who don't know the history behind it, around 480 B.C. after a failed attempt by his father Daruis, the Persian king Xerxes decides to invade Greece. The Persian empire incorporates the majority of the known world and king Xerxes sees himself more as a god, heading an army of thousands. After a persian emmissary is sent to Greece city state Sparta to request that they submit themselves to the empire.
The Spartans are a warrior civilization trained from childhood to be the world's greatest soldiers. They reject the Persians demand and their king, Leonidas requests permission from the Oracle (like a messenger from the gods) to got to war, for reasons that I won't go into his request is denied so her decides to go for a walk with his 300 personal bodyguard. They march to the gates at Thermopylae to meet the Persiansx and are joined by 7000 men from other grecian city states. The rest of the story is about the battle that takes place but I won't got into it save spoiling tthe rest of the story.
Miller's writing is excellent as usual and the art work is some of the most impressive in any graphic novel I have read. The book itself is huge, 15 inches long which really adds to the epic feel to the drawings. The book is short however, I read the whole thing in just over and hour but this is a great tale about a battle that helped change the shape of history. It is considerably more historically accurate than Zach Snyder's film of the same title.
This is worth a look for any graphic novel fan or fans of the history of this period. A throrughly enjoyable read!
Frank Miller appropriately tunes his macho, heroically downtrodden style onto a piece of brutal history: the triumphant defeat of an army of Spartans by the Persians. The result is a reminder of his 'Dark Knight Returns' comic form, and a short but sweet dose of intense bravado. The artwork has Lynn Varley's gritty colouring matching the sharp angles of Miller's inking.
Miller's writing is slightly restrained by the history, and the work involved perhaps in depicting the battle scenes to an appropriately effective level. But it still succeeds, and made me want to see the new film of course, but also to see a film version of Dark Knight Returns, with all that juicy narration and strong reality that he injected in those previously tired superheroes. Perhaps they will make a proper version yet. In the meantime, I gladly relished this tale, although longing through his Leonidas for his Dark Knight again....
This is a mighty book for a mighty tale, although small in page numbers, it is designed to re-tell a classic tale.....and do it justice with clenched teeth.
It's also better than having a DVD since here you have the concept in its original form, and it's v. clear how closely the film has adapted it.
A superior vision by a leading writer, penciller, director and stylistic innovator.
The comic that inspired the epic film.