By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
On March 6th, Dark Horse Comics unleashed Xerxes to the masses recounting The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander. To say which leader is more ruthless is a moot question. In reading this collected hardcover edition instead of the individual issues, I found the story much easier to follow. I knew I should wait for the compendium but still visited my local comic book store to read as much of the work as it was still being released.
The payoff is that I get to see all the covers used and the book measures 12 3/4″ x 9 13/16.” This bigger book makes admiring Miller’s artistry all the better. I don’t want to compare this work to 300, as an artist’s style can change over time. His stunning attention to detail mixes up the mythic with Meso-American. As strange as this combination sounds, Xerxes is seen covered from head to toe with ornaments to signify his godhood. We see little of him until the end of the second chapter, where he meets a mummy of unknown origins who reveals his destiny. From there, he sets out to conquer the world and avenge his father, Darius. The war with the Greeks was in motion before his taking the throne.
In what we learn with this work is in how lonely he is. The eyes tell all, and I see him more sad than furious. He desires happiness and devotion. When he is focussed in waging war, perhaps what he wants is to be the next God of War than anything else.
The structure of Miller’s narrative is similar to Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte D’arthur. Unlike this other literary work, there’s no greater adversary or the search to acquire Excalibur or find the Holy Grail. Instead, it’s about alliances or being the invader. This comic book is not a complete history of this character, and nor does it look at the complexities of Persian spiritual life. To understand the man, as he truly was represented in history, I will pick up a history book. This fictionalized account delves into his psyche and Frank delivers. The script says more than the art, and while it does not hit the same levels of 300, the blood and gore is still signature Miller.
I wonder if Frank has plans on expanding this world of the 300. Since this work specifically names Alexander the Great, there’s a chance for more. He was at the Persian’s funeral and the fire in his eyes suggests more could happen. If more is planned, I look forward to seeing him invade India and deal with the elephants. Yes, I am looking forward to how this writer/artist will depict this Asian world, it can be spectacular!