The fifth issue of Xerxes sees the end of Frank Miller’s sword and sandal epic, putting closure both on this story, as well as the events of 300.
Picking up almost immediately after the end of issue four, issue five sees Darius III bargaining and failing to procure his captured princess from Alexander the Great after the Battle of Issus. What follows is a montage of battles as Alexander’s Macedonian army invades Persia. Though facing incredible odds (One page states Alexander has a force of 40,000 to Darius’ 500,000 to 1,000,000.), Alexander’s tactical ingenuity sees his army gain a decisive victory at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC, allowing him to take Babylon, Susa, and the Persian capital Persepolis; however, it is not at the hands of Alexander that Darius is finally defeated, but instead assassinated by his cousin Bessus. As closure to Darius’ saga, Alexander arranges a tribute for his great and respected adversary.
As with prior issues, Miller uses double-page spreads to conclude the Xerxes story. The victories are depicted gloriously, with the flat, yet colorful, style still mimicking the art of antiquity. The final issue has a thrust of momentum to reach its conclusion, with each page turned showing a new victory for Alexander. Yet, there is a sadness in watching Darius’ fall. A sequence early in the issue shows Darius, who has been trying to barter for his princess’ return, hunched over, with a weak look in his face as his predecessor Xerxes looks downward onto him in perceived shame. At the comic’s end, a slain Darius is shown pierced by many spears, a glazed look on his face, one of the more detailed death sequences in the series. While Miller bequeaths the glory to Alexander by displaying his many victories and treasure looting, Darius receives his glory, as well, in being portrayed in this sympathetic fashion.
Miller’s artwork combined with Sinclair’s coloring are once again fantastic. The rays and reflections of the setting sun and the jewels that adorn both Alexander and Darius seem to glitter and shine right off the pages. The wide page spreads allow for maximum artwork and thus capture the grand scale of the battles between Alexander and Darius. Overall, the final issue of Xerxes is a humbling end to Darius and his story that started with the Great King Xerxes and the events prior to 300 and a highmark in peplum literature.
Creative Team: Frank Miller (writer and artist), Alex Sinclair (colorist)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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