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

details
Title: Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander.
Series: 300 Universe #2.
Writer(s): Frank Miller.
Illustrator(s): Frank Miller.
Colourist(s): Alex Sinclair.
Publisher
:
 Dark Horse Comics.
Format: Oversized Hardcover.
Release Date: March 19th 2019.
Pages: 112.
Genre(s): Comics, Historical Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781506708829.
My Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆.

thoughts

It’s always a shame to see a creator wear his worse costume as he approaches the end of his career. In this case, his end came much earlier but he continues to work in the industry as he embraces his passion for comic books and his desire to publish stories set within the same universe as his previous work. Unfortunately, all I could gather from that is a man clinging onto the success of his past work to continue to do what he does. Frank Miller is the creator in question whose critically-acclaimed work, such as Sin City, Batman: Year One, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and 300, have caught the eye of many readers around the world and set the bar high for a lot of writers and artists who look to leave their own impression in the world of comics. This time around, Frank Miller revisits the world of 300 with a story crucial to our understanding of history yet fails miserably in his execution.

What is Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander about? Collecting issues #1-5, this story recounts the rise and fall of the Persian King’s Empire as well as the rise of Alexander the Great. While focusing exclusively on the key events, such as the death of kings and armies, the story jumps through time without any sense of direction to quickly present historical events, marriages, and conflicts. As much as I’d like to delve into the details by presenting the context behind everything, this graphic novel completely overlooks it all and offers a jumbled mess that could never elucidate any question you could possibly have about the events illustrated in this story.  

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This is the kind of story that makes you want to hit the pause button and wonder why you even cared enough to pick it up and read. For something set within the universe of 300, it was never supposed to be this convoluted and incomprehensible for the reader. While it is supposedly based on historical events, it is nearly impossible to follow any of the events illustrated and it’s not even because of the atrocious artwork. There’s also a panoply of key characters introduced but never properly contextualized, making it futile to follow the narrative or care about anything happening in the universe. Split into multiple segments highlighting either the fall or the rise of different empires, the story somehow also manages to blend realism with mysticism without ever clearly defining one or the other. Even if I wanted to understand what was going on, I would have to do my own research and revisit this tale, and even then I believe I’d consider this abomination to be impertinent for readers. Let’s not forget the incredible amount of simplification and all the unnatural dialogue incorporated within this story to make it so much harder for the reader to comprehend anything..

Although 300 had a similar graphic novel format and the intention to maintain that format was extended to this latest installment, the story and artwork failed to justify that need and simply came across as pretentious. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the artwork monstrous but it wasn’t unexpected from Frank Miller. I’ve never been a huge fan of his talents—if you can call it that—as his visual style is honestly grotesque, rough, and careless. So far, none of his work where he takes on both the writing and the artwork has ever worked well with me. In this story, his focus is often on epic battle scenes—which isn’t surprising considering the historical events in question and the graphic novel format—but none of the drawings make any sense. From individuals getting stabbed by spears in awkward positions and sliced up at odd angles, nothing was intended to impress but seemed to only convey raw brutality through infantile artwork. I sort of feel bad for Alex Sinclair being involved in the colouring but at least he’s not in fault for any of Frank Miller’s ludicrous ideas.

Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander is a disaster that marks the end of a creator’s ability to deliver quality material.


EXHIBITA

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!

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29 comments

  • My only real positive experience with Miller was his Daredevil: Man without Fear minseries. Rough is definitely a kind way of describing his art though, that is for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Well…that is pretty clear: avoid at all costs is pretty much the message here lol (well…almost anyway). I have the graphic novel for the 300 but have never read it. I bought it for my mum way back when the movie came out, because she was a huge fan of that film (although I think it was more because of Gerard Butler lol 😂😂). But yeah this sounds horrible indeed. Nonetheless you still wrote a great review/warning for us! 😊Great post!😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaha I clearly wouldn’t recommend this one. 300 is another story though and clearly “better” than this one. It’s good to know that you still have a copy of it though. And hey, can’t blame your mom for like Gerard Butler. 😛 Thanks for reading, good sir!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Wow. I know his name really well – from Bookstooge’s comment I’m guessing he came up when I was reading about Daredevil spoilers (RIP Daredevil. Still not over it.)

    Your comments on his artwork are really interesting. I really don’t like gratuitous brutality. It feels like a lazy way of engaging. There way more to building a relationship with a reader than just making them feel disgusted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I too am still sad that Daredevil is done. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney makes a move in the near future to add a TV series on Disney’s streaming service or a new movie for Daredevil in the MCU. But yes, Frank Miller has done great things for Daredevil in the past. But today?… His stuff has only been getting worse and worse…

      Yep, the violence is gratuitous, which is a bit normal during war, but the reason it doesn’t work so well here is because the violence makes no sense. It’s drawn weirdly and it’s unimpressive hahaha

      Like

  • Oh my! That’s the most vehemence I read in your review in a long time… Admittedly, it doesn’t look too promising, and the convoluted, and yet overly simplified plot seems typical of Miller, unfortunately. I think he just understands the medium in a different way than most of modern readers… I did enjoy his 300 from the esthetic point of view, despite the gratuitious violence, but even then his plot skills left a lot to be desired 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was actually glad that I read something this bad… I needed to let some steam out and Frank Miller was a great target for it. I like your statement on his understanding of the medium. I too believe that he sees things differently and that he sees as his style as something he established, something that will be recognized as “art”, something that will be universally loved because he “earned” his place in the comic book world. Unfortunately, I don’t think he gets a pass for his art style, at least subjectively, for me, hahaha

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, his style is very peculiar – both in storytelling and graphic aspect. I think it’s something one can either love or hate, or maybe just shrug off. It doesn’t resonate with me, though – I like his ideas, but not execution 😉

        Funnily enough, I’ve got a few really bad book experiences stashed for just such an occasion 😀 I tend to avoid writing very fueled up, scathing reviews (I know, surprising!) because it’s like beating up someone who can’t defend themselves. Some books just have that effect on me, though – those self-satisfied, smug jerks among books (non-gendered) out there make my incisors elongate 😉

        Liked by 1 person

          • Oh my! Wait till I read some more Lawrence 😛
            But don’t worry, I’m bound to reach the point where I’ll have to get some stuff about bad writing out of my system – and then, a Bad Book Review (BBR) will surely come 😀

            Liked by 1 person

  • Oh man! You reeeaallyy didn’t like this one.
    Weirdly enough, that makes me curious about the book and want to try it. I don’t know why that happens sometimes when I read a negative review.

    Liked by 1 person

  • WOW! …. WOW! This is a side of Lashaan I’m not used to!! Atrocious artwork and monstrous artwork are not what we want to hear when it comes to a comic. But I totally get you. Personally I wasn’t really a fan of 300 or Frank Miller. He seemed to be a fad to me. Not that creators shouldn’t get their time in the light… It sounds like an honest mess though!! I don’t appreciate bits of history and characters out of context and all over the place. We need a story and to care!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaah it was a glorious mess. Frank Miller used to have great ideas and he’s best when he’s the head of a project rather than the artist. At least back then. So far, he hasn’t been showing any sign of his past self.

      Like

  • I’ve heard some pretty bad things about this and honestly, never plan to check it out (your fine review is definitely the ‘nail in the coffin’ haha) – it’s such a shame that the quality Frank Miller’s work has never returned to anything near what he achieved with Year One, TDKR etc (I hear Superman: Year One isn’t particularly good), but at least we have those to go back to again and again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t ever recommend picking this up unless you’re a completionist. And you’re right, he hasn’t proven anyone that he’s still got it so far… I’ll probably still read his stuff out of curiosity and to save anyone else from reading it (e.g. I got Ronin queued up to be read at some point, hopefully it’s decent).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I’ve heard Ronin is one worth checking out as well and, shame on me, I still haven’t picked up Sin City!

        Again, a shame Miller’s work isn’t up to scratch these days but obviously sad that he’s endured health problems in recent years.

        Liked by 1 person

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