Sunday, July 3, 2011

300 Hardcover Review

Dark Horse Comics
88 pages
$30.00 (1999)
ISBN: 9781569714027

Contributors: Frank Miller and Lynn Varley

Reprints: 300 (1998) #1-5 (of 5)

Synopsis: In the year 480BC, the Persian god-king Xerxes sets his sights on Greece and demands the submission of King Leonidas of Sparta.  Leonidas kills the messengers and an invasion of Sparta begins as hundreds of thousands of  Persian troops mass to the Grecian shores.

Leonidas brings 300 of his best Spartans to stand against the invading Persian forces (additional troops from nearby city-states reinforced the Spartans including Thespians, Thebans, and Phocians).  He chooses Thermopylae (translated Hot Gates) as the site of the battle for it's strategic benefits - the tight pass rendered the superior Persian numbers ineffectual against the well-trained Spartan hoplites. 

The Spartans hold off Xerxes' army against impossible odds and incredible challenges.  A traitor to the Spartans tips the balance of the battle and gives Xerxes the key to winning.  Leonidas is faced with inevitable defeat, but proves he and his 300 are worthy of their legend.

Pros: Gritty and modern retelling of the legendary Battle of Thermopylae, great art and story by Miller, painted colors by Varley are amazing, hardcover collected edition reads much better than the original comic format (staple, folded pages) with landscape pages

Cons: Historically inaccurate on many counts, incredibly quick read due to the landscape page spread format, movie is better

Mike Tells It Straight: Miller retells the Battle of Thermopylae as a pure and gritty pulp drama.  Critics and even Alan Moore blasted Miller for the historical inaccuracies of his story, but it succeeds in being both powerfully symbolic and wildly entertaining.  The story earned three Eisner awards and was later adapted into a visually impressive movie. 

The movie was another wild success and expanded on the original story with some additional, captivating scenes.  Leonidas' wife literally has one line in the book - "Come home with your shield or on it", but an entire political sub-story was depicted in the movie - along with a racy sex scene.  The book was used as a literal storyboard for the movie and fully brought it to life. 
If you watched the movie and are curious to check out the original graphic novel -- don't bother.  The movie is actually superior to the original due to the additional story and visuals.  If you own the comics then you should trade up to the hardcover due to the better format for the landscape pages.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

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