Monday, 25 February 2019

Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander by Frank Miller Review


Striking when the iron’s hot, Frank Miller follows up 300 20 YEARS after it was first published with Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander - and it really wasn’t worth the wait. It’s such a rubbish sequel. And so confusing! I had no idea what was going on and had to do my own research to understand what Miller should’ve been able to convey if he were still a competent storyteller. 

So: the first three issues are a prequel/sequel to 300, in that they’re set before, during and immediately after 300 - except 300 is never referenced. Why not??? This book is a companion piece to 300 - why not add some context to help the reader understand what’s going on?! 

The main focus is on Xerxes’ Persian army fighting the Greeks. Miller’s story structure is an absolute mess. Xerxes is killed, though how and why are unnecessarily muddled, and then Miller jumps back in time to Xerxes getting married for no reason! Then, for the final two issues, fast forward 150 or so fucking YEARS to Xerxes’ descendant, Darius III, who faces Alexander the Great. 

...what? Why? I guess to show us the fate of Xerxes’ empire. Did we need to see that though - wasn’t the 300 postscript about how Xerxes’ empire would eventually fall sufficient? And that’s the thing: what was the point of this book? Was anybody clamouring for a 300 sequel? Lord amighty. This book is at least 10 years too late. 

The blurb uses the word “sprawling” which is accurate - this thing is a shambles. There’s no real story, no real characters, nothing to really engage the reader. This all really happened yet good luck learning anything from this uninformative mish-mash of baffling historical events as seen through Frank Miller’s frenetic action movie lens. It’s such a boring read. And this has nothing to do with anything but I think I saw Richard Corben’s Mag the Hag character - complete with penis nose - in one of the scenes, though who knows why. I guess Miller and Corben are buds? 

I know Frank Miller’s art is divisive but I’ve always liked it. Thankfully the art here is better than the utter crap he turned in for the Dark Knight III backups, helped enormously by Alex Sinclair’s colours, though Sinclair can only do so much. Still, Miller remains a master of framing and layouts and I feel like this would be a much better book if he handed over the actual art duties to someone who hasn’t lost whatever talent they once had. 

And that’s Xerxes - a very disappointing sequel to one of Frank Miller’s last great books. I wouldn’t recommend this drek to anyone but if you’ve not read 300, that one is definitely worth a read.

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