GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW WEEK
Three is a thoughtful, well-researched graphic novel quite reminiscent of the book and film 300, but choosing to look at the vainglorious, down-fall years of Sparta.
The book is told from the viewpoint of the Helots. The Helots were the slaves of the Spartans, and like many slave-owners, the Spartans failed to realize that it was often the work of the slaves that supported them, economically, at least. The Helots begin to realize their own power just as the Spartans begin to lose theirs.
This story has a group of Spartan soldiers enter a tavern and decide, as is their wont, to slaughter the Helots within. One Helot, a cripple, decides to fight back with the help of two others, including a woman. One Spartan makes it out alive and reports to the king what has happened. The king sends 300 to put an end to what could be an up-rising, and the three are hunted throughout the book.
During the hunt, the Spartans take out one of their own, for failing to live up to their own code of honor and glory. It’s a nice set-up to their own down-fall…the failure or one to be honorable, and the failure to respect leadership.
The ending is not super-heroic, but certainly worthy of respect.
The art is really quite nice for this book. There was a ‘classic’ 70’s feel to the book which I felt leant well to the classic nature of the story.
The Helots did seem to be a little stronger than I expected them to be. For three, barely armed slaves to take out a squad of Spartans, even if they did have surprise on their side, seemed super-human, and their language and manners certainly didn’t make them appear as slaves. But what we do get, is a sense of humanity. The Spartans were not gods, but men, capable of failure and a down-fall. And the Helots were not animals, but men (and women) capable of over-coming their lot. I don’t recall reading a graphic novel that identified the human condition this well.
The last thirty pages or so of this book include a page-by-page historical footnote; a ‘conversation’; a sample of the layout and design of the book; and bios of the three responsible for the bulk of the book (writer, artist, colorist). I found it mostly interesting. The historical footnotes definitely lend credence to the amount of research that went in to the book.
Looking for a good book? Three is a historical fiction graphic novel that speaks to what it can mean to be human during a turbulent time of a once great civilization.
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author: Kieron Gillen
artist: Ryan Kelly
publisher: Image Comics
paperback, 171 pages