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300 Hardcover – December 28, 1999
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Writer-artist Frank Miller and colorist Lynn Varley retell the battle of Thermopylae in the exciting and moving graphic novel 300. They focus on King Leonidas, the young foot soldier Stelios, and the storyteller Dilios to highlight the Spartans' awe-inspiring toughness and valor. Miller and Varley's art is terrific, as always; the combat scenes are especially powerful. And Miller's writing is his best in years. Read it.
Do not, however, read 300 expecting a strictly accurate history. The Phocians did not "scatter," as Miller describes. His Spartans are mildly homophobic, which is goofy in such a gay society. Miller doesn't say how many Greeks remained for the climactic battle--you'd think 300 Spartans and maybe a dozen others, when there were between 700 and 1,100 Greeks. Herodotus's Histories does not identify the traitor Ephialtes as ugly and hunchbacked, or even as Spartan. 300 establishes a believable connection between Ephialtes's affliction and behavior, but his monstrous appearance, King Xerxes's effeminacy, and the Persians' inexplicable pierced-GenX-African looks make for an eyebrow-raising choice of villain imagery. Nonetheless, 300 is a brilliant dramatization.
For the full story of the failed invasion, read Herodotus's Histories or, for a concise, graphic-novel retelling, Larry Gonick's great Cartoon History of the Universe: Volumes 1-7, From the Big Bang to Alexander the Great. For a lighthearted look at post-invasion Athens and a very young Alexander the Great, check out William Messner-Loebs and Sam Kieth's witty and gorgeous graphic novels, Epicurus the Sage Vol. I and Vol. II. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
For three days, the Spartans stood against Xerxes until a betrayal lead to their downfall. This is manly, hot-blooded stuff here. I cannot think of any other artist who could do it justice.
Frank Miller was made for manly, hot-blooded stuff. His art style, used to perfection in "300," is all about strength and weight. The Spartans are carved from the rocky terrain of Greece. Heavy outlines and squared corners add to the effect. The costume designs are symbolic rather than historic, and each heavy cape and bronze sword is used to full effect. Lynn Varley's colors are at the top of her game.
This is a work of art, but it isn't pretty.
Story wise, Miller has done a clever job of adapting this historical event into a reasonably short comic. Along with the necessary bravado and familiar Spartan quotations ("Return with your shields, or on them!"), he has breathed life and an certain sensitivity into Leonidas and Xerxes. This mix of story and art is all that is good about comics.
This edition, in particular, showcases Miller's art and story. The oversized hardcover with high print quality puts the pages in your face. Varley's colors are vibrant. A very worthy purchase.
Xerxes, the ruler of Persia, had amassed an army that may have numbered as high as a million, which was moving across the Middle East and into Greece with the intent of conquering the known world. Many of the Greek city-states were prepared to simply submit. But two things occurred after the 300 Spartans held Xerxes's army off for three days. One, it allowed time for Greek naval forces to move into position to challenge Xerxes. Two, as word spread of the battle, it inspired other Greeks to choose to battle Xerxes. Xerxes's forces also were probably somewhat demoralized by the battle as Xerxes probably lost thousands of men as he sent wave after wave of soldiers at the Spartans.
The Spartans eventually fell, but their sacrifice resulted in victory and Xerxes and his army were eventually turned back.
Miller takes a few literary licenses with the story, to good effect, and presents a fairly accurate and engrossing retelling of the battle. Highly recommended.
How about a Classics Illustrated-style retelling of a little-known episode in ancient history?
In retrospect, using the comic form to tell the story of Leonidas and his 300 Spartan's stand against Xerxes and his Persian hordes is an absolutely brilliant idea, but for the life of me I do not know how Miller managed to pitch this to the corporate suits and get them to put it out in an oversized hardcover edition to boot. Anyone want a coffee table book filled with blood and gore? Put your hand down, Hannibal Lecter.
"300" is an absolutely stunning recounting of the heroism of the ancient Spartans as they stood and fell before the might of the largest armed force on the planet. Fans of Xenophon and Thucydides will instantly recognize the ancient Greece depicted herein; the furious discipline of the bristling phalanx, the oppressive heat of the campaign, the rhythmic thud of the marching battalions. Leonidas gleams like the hero-kings of old always do in our imagination, noble and cruel. This simple tale of how one man refused to allow the glory of Greece to fade before a barbarous horde is punctuated by breathtaking battle scenes, glorious heroism, and base treachery. This is truly the power of the comic book medium, a power well-remembered by those of us who dropped the melodrama and tissue paper plots of the X-clones long ago.
Bravo, Mr. Miller, and thanks for recalling us to a nobler, bolder, though hardly more savage age. Get this book now, and your coffee table be damned.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, and highly stylized. I can see where the movie attempted to capture that, and for good reason. Read morePublished 27 days ago by Evelyn Eve
A wonderfully classic tale! This is where the movie found its inspiration. Definitely a book to have on the shelf, in hard copy.. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Dylon
After seeing the movie and loving it, I was elated to find out that the movie was adapted from a comic series. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bookman
This is not based on the book "The Gates of Fire" by Stephen Pressfield. This book has its own take on Thermopylae.
And what a take! Read more