One of the best things about modern comics is that the form is in no way chained to capes and tights.
Three by Ryan Kelly, Kieron Gillen, and Jordie Bellaire, is one of the best examples of the evolution of the form. The book is as much a history lesson as it is a dark, twisted adventure tale. For those who loved 300 and are expecting to find something similar within these pages, they will be frighteningly surprised to see the historical Spartans depicted much more accurately than they were in either Frank Miller’s graphic novel or the film of the same name.
The dialogue quite accurately showcases the brutality of an era in which the Spartans were conquerors rather than heroes fighting an impossible battle to retain their freedom. Remarkably, it exceeds even the visceral, violent action on the page in showing just how far these Spartans have fallen from the tree of their fathers. We see here, not the heroic three hundred warriors of Leonidas but a cruel, unforgiving collection of Spartans who appear to have forgotten the honor of their ancestors while reveling in the privilege that comes with being atop the proverbial heap. They are the slavers, not the slaves, the abusers rather than the abused.
The art has a certain filth to it which helps to establish the harsh realities of life in this age. Combined with an almost sepia-tone color palette, the reader is left with an almost palpable griminess as the story moves across the ancient landscape.
Just as in Miller’s epic, it is the shamed, “trembler” of a warrior who provides the most interesting sub-plot. There is nothing so dangerous as one who has nothing to lose and everything to prove. Paired with the mysterious “butcher” who roves the road in search of the Spartan force, it seems that this three-hundred is destined for a far more ignominious end to their quest than their honored ancestors.
If you, like me, have managed to resist the urge to simply dig out a history text and determine how the story inevitably ends, you will find Three a chilling and compelling yarn which will leave you craving the thrill of next month’s issue.
Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He also hosts the weekly Infinite Crossover podcast in cooperation with Fanboys Inc. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and resident of a real-life Smallville. Opinons expressed in this piece reflect only the opinion of the writer and not of any employer. contact: email@example.com