Writer: Frank Miller
Artists: Frank Miller
Colours: Alex Sinclair
Cover by: Frank Miller
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
April sees the release of the first chapter of the hotly anticipated “Xerxes: Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander” from the team of Frank Miller (writer, artist) and Alex Sinclair (Colours). Set in the same Ancient Greek world as Miller’s famed “300” comics, this prequel follows the armies of Athens as they fight off Persian invasion. Here’s the official line from Dark Horse Comics on the series:
Persian King Xerxes sets out to conquer the world to avenge his father Darius’s defeat and create an empire, unlike anything the world has ever seen . . . Until the hardy Greeks produce a god king of their own, Alexander the Great
“Xerxes” marks Millers return to the dual role of both writer and artist, a rare treat of late. Yet fans of “300” who will no doubt be excited to see Miller back at the helm of another epic series might also note some changes. Firstly, the series appears to have a broad scope which, unlike the razor sharp tale of the Battle of Thermopylae, aims to explore the conflict of Persia and the Greek city states at large. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the title of the comic itself, which includes a host of historical figures born centuries part. Secondly, the art in issue #1 bears a certain cartoon-like quality, a far-cry from the gritty, grainy images of its predecessor. As a result, even the opening panels, which focus on Athenian soldiers repelling a Persian attack, fail to land their punches. Miller does offer a number of wide-angle shots to immerse readers in the action, which, coupled with the blue hues provided by Sinclair, do offer a nice glimpse of the Greek coastline.
The main characters we meet in issue #1 include Aeskylos, a playwright turned soldier, and Themistokles, a captain destined for great things in Athenian military history. We also meet Miltiades, an Athenian general whose changes to the established phalanx fighting formation may prove pivotal at the Battle of Marathon. But while these characters add a welcome historical edge long-criticised as absent in Miller’s “300” series, they fail to capture the reader in any real sense, often seeming little more than stock characters who move us from one part of Greek history to another. Even the Battle of Marathon, perhaps one of the most significant conflicts in human history, fails to elevate the comic beyond its obvious shortcomings.
Ultimately, the mouthful that is “Xerxes: Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander” fails to deliver in its first issue. With a lack of development in both the artwork and characterisation, Miller relies heavily on his ability to write a good fight scene and pace his pages well. Whether those skills will be enough to give us another classic like “300”, however, remains to be seen.