Release Date: In Comic Book Stores April 9th, in Bookstores April 22nd!
"Nearly one hundred and twenty years after the 300 held off the mighty Persian empire at Thermopylae, three helot slaves do the unthinkable: In one blood-soaked night, they rebel against their Spartan masters. Three helot survivors — Klaros, Demar, and Terpander, the eponymous three of the April Image Comics graphic novel THREE by Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly — survive the slaughter and run. To save the reputation of Sparta, three hundred warriors set out to capture and kill them. The desperate helots and their determined, brutal pursuers leave a trail of blood across Greece."
I thought this would be an interesting comic, since I enjoyed 300, both the graphic novel and the movie. This comic looks at the Spartans from a different angle- through the eyes of their Helot slaves in 364 BC- a time when Spartan ranks were in decline, and they were beginning to fear that the Helots might soon revolt.
This was a brutal time in Sparta. The Krypteia, young Spartan warriors, once a year declared war on the Helots, and pretty much slaughtered them without remorse or repercussions. And so, this story starts with a group of villagers who anger one of the Ephors (similar to magistrates), and he orders the village to be massacred. But three Helots rebel and are able to kill the Ephor. When news of this reaches King Kleomenes II, the decision is made to pursue these slaves and make an example of them, lest others feel emboldened to turn on their masters. And so, 300 men of the King's guard go off to fight a mere three slaves, in a tragically ironic reversal of the Battle of Thermopylae.
So, the point of this story is to provide a counter for the glorification of Sparta that has been caused by the recent movies based on Frank Miller's comics. This shows Sparta as a state in decline, and on the precipice of it's eventual demise. Both stories about Sparta are true enough. Sparta once was considered very great, and the wars against the Persians cemented them in history as heroes. But it is just as true that they were also brutal with the Helots and other ethnic groups nearby, and that as their civilization dwindled, they lost a lot of what had once made them great, and began to compromise their own values.
So, the story was interesting and historically relevant. And at the end of the book, there is a discussion about the decisions that the author made, and an interview with Professor Stephen Hodkinson about just what was known and what is guessed at about the Spartans of this time period. So, between the comic and the discussions afterward, I feel like I learned a lot about this fascinating culture, while getting a good action story to boot.