By Ben Snyder
After years upon years of fruitless waiting, Frank Miller finally released his companion to 300. Unfortunately Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #1 doesn’t reach anywhere near the same lofty heights as its predecessor. Miller delivers a surprisingly predictable and seemingly unnecessary companion to his original masterpiece. But it also continues a trend of Miller returning to his earlier works with noticeable less success, as he did with the Dark Knight III. Similarly to the Dark Knight III, Xerxes just doesn’t seem to add much to the landmark graphic novel.
Perhaps my biggest critique with Xerxes is the lack of the titular character. Xerxes is nowhere to be found throughout the issue, instead focusing on another failed Persian invasion of Greece. It is even odder that the entire story is a tale of the battle is told from the perspective of the Greeks, not the Persians. It would seem to make more sense to detail the perspectives of the Persians as Xerxes is in decline and then switch to the Greeks as Alexander rises.
Miller’s sparse and weighted dialogue is present as well filled with references to Greek gods and the Greeks penchant for hating/being envious of the Spartans. Everything feels like it should be spoken by a rough graveled narrator, which fits with the stories content. Miller also introduces a couple of interesting characters in this chapter, but none of them have the commanding presence of Leonidas and his 300 men. Somewhat confusing is the character Miltiades, as he is referred to as a man but is drawn noticeably feminine, to the point where I thought Miller made a spelling error.
It also seems as though the Persians don’t really have a plan, which seems weird considering they are a military titan. It seems like their battle at Marathon is without ample cause as the Persians wind up getting predictably slaughtered and then sailing presumably onward to Greece’s capital. Simply put, what was the point of stopping at Marathon when you could have just continued sailing on?
Miller’s art is also a noticeable downgrade from 300. It’s really hard to put my finger on what exactly is the cause of it though. It all has the hallmarks of Miller’s work, his expressive body styles, the disproportionate eyes to face, and stiff body motions. But it looks as if somebody is doing a poor imitation of Frank Miller’s style. Looking at side by sides of 300 to Xerxes it’s apparent their by the same artist, but one could be mistaken assuming Xerxes came first and then Miller perfected his craft in 300.
It may seem unfair to constantly compare Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander with it’s groundbreaking and historical companion, as so few novels in general can match that height. But my main complaint is why revisit the same well-trodden landscape if you’re not going to give us something of equal or more worth. It felt as the only thing that could have been added to his definitive tome is what happened after the battle against the 300 Spartans pertaining to Xerxes. But seeing as Xerxes isn’t even in this chapter, it almost seems pointless.
Xerxes: The Fall of The House of Darius and The Rise of Alexander #1
Dark Horse Comics