Xerxes acts as both a prequel and sequel to 300 with the first three chapters taking place before the events of 300 and the final two issues set afterwards. Chapters one and two are a retelling of the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE, with King Darius I leading the Persians to war against Greece, but being initially rebuffed by a Greek ragtag army of “potters and tailors and blacksmiths and fishermen,” a substantial point of view shift away from the infamous elite Spartans. The Persians attempt another invasion, but Darias is outwitted by the underdog Grecian army and assassinated by a thrown spear. His son Xerxes vows revenge.
Chapter three briefly covers the reign of Xerxes, as he takes on a bride named Esther from Zion in which Xerxes had subjugated. She asks Xerxes to spare her people, which he does, but the chapter ends with Xerxes dreaming of conquering more lands.
Chapters four and five take place after 300, after Xerxes has been assassinated and Darius III becomes king of the Persians. Mimicking chapters one and two, Darius III sets his sights on conquest but is defeated by Alexander the Great during the Battle of Issus in 333 BCE. Alexander begins to take the Persian empire, and Darius III is assassinated in 330 BCE, with the final images of the series depicting Alexander paying respects to his adversary.
The majority of the pages in the Xerxes hardcover are double-page spreads, depicting epic battles in Miller’s style. Many of the panels seems to emulate Grecian artwork of antiquity. It is the addition of Alex Sinclair’s colors that causes the pages to stand out. All the instances of Xerxes, his wife, and Darius III are shown covered in gold and jewels, and Sinclair’s coloring causes the images to nearly illuminate off the page.
In regards to extra content, the Xerxes hardcover is lacking. There is the standard pinup gallery at the end of the book which contains the cover art of the single issues; however, what would have been extremely welcome would have been an introduction or foreword by Miller, talking about his newest comic creation and perhaps contextualizing it in the greater pop culture lexicon that his original 300 started.
Despite the lack of extras, the Xerxes hardcover is a gorgeous tome, and combined with 300, makes of an epic sword and sandal odyssey.
Creative Team: Frank Miller (story and art), Alex Sinclair (colors)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Click here to purchase.