300 Comic Book Review

300 #1. Copyright Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Frank Miller

Artist: Frank Miller (Illustrator); Lynn Varley (Colorist)

Content: 300 is a 16+ rated book.

Introduction

300 is a piece of historical fiction, based on a story passed down to us by the Father of History, Herodotus, a Greek historian who first brought the world the story of 300 Spartans that stood against an empire. A young Frank Miller, now comic book icon, was first exposed to this story through a film about the Spartans and their desperate stand against the king of Persia, Xerxes.

The result is a fantastical story told through stunning visuals painstakingly drawn by Frank Miller and painted by colorist Lynn Varley.

The Story

300 tells the story of three hundred Spartan warriors, the bodyguard of the Spartan King Leonidas, who together with simple peasant warriors stand against the armada of King Xerxes of Persia. The 300 warriors and the rest of the small Greek army meet Xerxes in Thermopylae, translated as the “Hot Gates,” a narrow path near the coast where hot springs abounded.

King Xerxes offers the Spartans to surrender and pay supplication to him as well as the rest of Greece, and he will leave them alone. King Leonidas’ answer is to kill the messengers, a blasphemous act that was unheard of in those days. Time and time again, Xerxes offers a peaceful resolution, but the proud and barbaric Spartans will have none of it, bowing to no man but their own king.

The resulting battle is one that has been told throughout the ages, as this small band of men held off a mighty army through tactics, determination, training, and sheer willpower.

What resulted, historically, was a major moral victory for Greece, but at the cost of these brave warriors.

Review

Frank Miller is a man of passion. So much though that he left DC to pursue other avenues when he thought he was being censored. It is well known that this story is one that is near and dear to his heart, as Miller is a lover of history.

These passions really come out in the telling of these doomed warriors of Sparta.

Much of the comic is done in huge oversized panels, twice the size of normal reproduction work. According to Diana Schutz, the editor of 300, the reason was, “…a story that epic needs a huge canvas.” The result is many striking visuals that help portray the battle with emotional tones of defiance, rage, strength, and honor.

Miller does take liberties with the history, however. 300 is more of a dramatic reimagining of the historical battle, rather than a word for word retelling. Many aspects are not truly there, such as the fact that there were thousands of Greek soldiers at the battle as well, and that all we know of Ephialtes was that he betrayed his people for the reward, not also for revenge. The deformity of Ephialtes is also Miller's addition. There is also a bit of romanticizing of the Spartans here. Some might think the story has been boiled down to a simplistic fable of brave freedom fighters and glosses over the historical reality of Spartan society.

Conclusion

300 is a great comic book story. The visuals here are some of Miller’s best, made even better by the painting done by Lynn Varley. The story is rich and made even better by the fact that it's based on a true one.

The savagery and dedication of the Spartan warriors is truly shown here as they lay down their lives for their country, their honor, and for glory. If you like Frank Miller’s work, do yourself a favor and check out this comic.