Xerxes review – the prequel to Frank Miller’s iconic 300

Frank Miller returns to the world of 300 with Xerxes, the prequel series that formed the basis for the 2014 film sequel 300: Rise of an Empire and focuses on the Spartan’s main enemy in the original story – King Xerxes.

The ongoing Greek rebellion against Persian tyranny reaches a turning point after the destruction of the city of Sardis and the later battle of Marathon: on a military campaign to vanquish the city of Athens and silence the Greeks once and for all, Xerxes, Persian Prince, watches as his father, King Darius, falls in battle… The mantle of king is passed and while his newly-inherited fleet retreats toward home, Xerxes’ hatred is cemented toward Athens – and his incentive to build the Persian empire is fueled. Xerxes becomes the king of all countries – the king of Persia, ruler of Zion, and Pharoah of Egypt – and his empire is unlike any the world has ever seen, until… The mantle is again passed, the god king dies and Darius III continues as the king of all. But then, from the west, a tiger force strikes in Asia Minor and is on a course for collision with Persian forces. This will be the beginning of the end for Persia and the launch of Alexander the Great’s rise to power!

Miller’s return to comics in the past few years has seen him revisit some of his best-known works and Xerxes continues that trend. The first thing that must be talked about is the art. Miller has an iconic style that has evolved over the years, but this series hearkens back to his work on the original 300 and to an extent Sin City. The first obvious returning feature is the landscape format which once again emphasises the cinematic approach that had started to appear more often in Miller’s art at the time of the original series. Paired with his current colouring collaborator on his DC projects Alex Sinclair, Miller’s art has the heavy shadows and visceral splashes of red that are prevalent in his most recent work. Similarly, he is also handling inking which favours a heavier approach than when he is working with a different inker, but like Sin City and the original 300, this style is well suited for the storytelling on display in Xerxes and the more brutish characters that populate the story.

Story wise, this is a great call-back to the original series with Miller once again examining the efficiency of an army. Whereas the Spartans in 300 had strength in their unbreakable unity and meticulous/ cohesive battle formations, the Athenian army favours variety with a force made up of individual who all excel in separate skills. It is a different approach to battle, but it is no less efficient. Plus, Miller is clearly having a ton of fun showing how Xerxes started his quest for power along with examining how his leadership and tactics contrasts to Alexander the Great. This is a story that is very much in his wheelhouse.

This is a faithful and worthy follow up of 300 that will more than appeal to fans of the original. Any fans of Frank Miller’s previous work should definitely give this one a look.

Xerxes is out now from Dark Horse
(9781506708829, h/b, £24.99)

Or from your local bookstore.

And discover more fantastic graphic novels in our 2020 Staff Picks.

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