Xerxes: The Fall, and the rise of Mark E Smith #3
This issue puts a lot more focus on the eponymous Xerxes, setting out some key moments from his life in an invigoratingly non-chronological fashion. In fact, the book early on announces the death of its lead, which is an unexpected turn that immediately puts you on your toes.
And Miller keeps you there throughout, offering up giant splashpage after giant splashpage of his big, bold art. It’s so effective that the book almost feels like it’s growing in your hand, like the art is getting so big that it wants to escape the page.
Miller has lots of fun with the ambiguous nature of historical storytelling here. While we’re told about factual events like Xerxes’ death, the writer acknowledges the numerous possibilities of how he might have got there (shades of “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice”), and the result is a ride through time that makes you actively question the nature of history.
That’s not to say that there aren’t more straightforward story pages here, and they’re executed with Miller’s characteristic style and rhythm.
And in the second half of the book - which jumps back to tell us about an earlier episode from Xerxes’ life - we get to see another facet of the character, as well as enjoying more games with the interpretation of history.
I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but this is a great character study that makes you think as much about the ambiguity and unreliability of history as about Xerxes himself, more than justifying the decision to slow down the overall story of the series this issue to flesh out such a key player.
It’s so good to be getting a full-length Frank Miller comic every month, and I’m delighted that the quality has been so excellent so far.