Frank Miller returns with a mythic take on an old, old story of war, domination and men reaching for heaven and the mantle of God. Here is your Major Spoilers review of Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #3 from Dark Horse Comics. Here is your Major Spoilers review of Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #3 from Dark Horse Comics.
Writer: Frank Miller
Artist: Frank Miller
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Editor: Freddye Miller
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: June 6, 2018
Previously in Frank Miller’s Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander takes us book to the world of 300, Miller’s apocalyptic retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. After his victories on the Greek mainland, but defeat on the water in the Battle of Salamis, Xerxes retreated back into his Empire. Years later, he prepares for a second invasion…
GREEK IS THE WORD
The world of 300 is ripe for the type of storytelling that Frank Miller revels in. Archetypes bestride an ancient world replete with dozens and dozens of tribes, cultures, religions and nations. In returning to the classical Greek world, Miller once again brings us a tale as broad and as vibrant as that ancient world ever was.
Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #3 is a very broad story told in bold strokes. The artwork and layout is cinematic, with widescreen shots taking up much of the page real estate. Absent Klaus Janson, Miller’s artwork is far looser and more mythical: which, given that he is not portraying men as such, but men striving for power and godhood, it is an approach that makes a great deal of sense.
There isn’t a much of a story depicted in this book. It opens with a bare-bones narrative covering the many theories as to how Xerxes died – was it in battle, or by poison or the assassin’s blade? Each version is accompanied by grand imagery, shot through with blood and gore. It is the sort of imagery one would expect when depicting the death of a God-King, an Emperor who ruled millions, whose very whim could lead to construction of great cities, or the enslavement and indeed deaths of millions more. But it adds nothing to the overall narrative of the first two issues.
The story then jumps forward in time, telling the story of Xerxes’ marriage to Esther. Again, the storytelling is broad, with a narrative that does a great deal of showing, without much telling. If Miller’s artwork is your bag, then what we see on the page is indeed very, very striking. One could, however, understand it if some are left exhausted by the constant barrage of striking images that lean heavily on the mythic, and less on the frailties of man.
PUNCH DRUNK WITH ART
But if you do like it, you’ll love it. In the absence of much of a story, the art carries Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #3 through to the very last panel. Bold and striking barely do justice to the visual assault the reader experiences. The lack of panels would generally slow the pace of a story to a crawl; here, the very vibrancy of the movement and action in each larger panel carries the reader along. The bare description conveyed in the captions underline the power of the images. Miller’s art does a huge amount of heavy lifting and makes the story sing. I point you to the funeral pyre scene on page 19 of the digital version for a prime example of this.
All that said, the biggest criticism of Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #3 has to be that it is very much a placeholder issue. It’s all mythic flashback at the start, followed by Xerxes finding and marrying his bride. It is all beautifully rendered, but if you were looking for a fast-paced action adventure in the vein of 300, I can only tell you to come back next issue in the hope that that is where the book will lead.
BOTTOM LINE: STRONG AND VIBRANT
Quibbles aside, this is an exceptionally strong piece of work, telling a story largely via artwork that is stunning in its variety and vibrancy. Not necessarily to everyone’s taste, if you do like smooshing your face right up against the mythic, then Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #3 is the book for you.