This one of the newer titles out, and has only been about a year. In fact I can remember when it was first released a few months back. I remember seeing the cover art and was immediately interested. On CBR they had a preview of the first few pages of the first issue and I was again trying to figure out what was going on. I did not know any of the writers, but that has never stopped me before, and the artwork seemed solid so I kept it in the back of my mind and waited for the trade to be published. The last time I was in the comic store I came across the book and allowed myself to purchase a brand new book, I usually stick to the used titles, but I wanted to check it out.
Kieron Gillen, who is from Britain, started out as a journalist writing for Wired, GamesMaster and PC Gamer UK mainly about computer games. He is most famous for The Wicked + The Divine which I recently read the other day was one of the best new comics no one is talking about. So that will definitely be on my list to read in the near future. His other notable works include Darth Vader, Angela Asgard’s Assassin, and a hand full of other titles for Marvel and Image as well as some creator owned titles like this one. This is the first story of his that I have read but based on his body of work I doubt it will be my last.
This story takes place in Sparta around 360 AD. It opens up on a small Healot village, which were slaves to the Spartan culture. According to Spartan law a Spartan soldier can kill a Healot anytime without fear of punishment. A group of soldiers decide to spend the night at the village because of the bad weather. The Healots are scared as they know the soldiers are their masters and having them around can only mean trouble. An argument breaks out that makes the soldiers angry and they begin to slaughter the village. Among the Healots is a man who is not who he claims to be, and uses his skills to kill all the Spartan soldiers, except for one that escapes. There are three survivors from the village and now they are on the run from the Spartan army as they are hunting them down at all cost.
As always I did not know what this one was about, and I really didn’t have a clue. I knew it was about Sparta, which I always find fascinating but really that was the extent of my knowledge of the plot. I will say that I found this story interesting for reasons that I never thought about, going into the story.
The most fascinating thing about this story is the view the reader gets into the culture of ancient Sparta. My knowledge is very general, but I have read a few books about the Spartans and ancient Greece, mainly Gates of Fire and Spartacus. The interesting thing is that while those two books paint a very accurate picture of the culture I think, either intentionally or unintentionally, in Three the reader gets a different aspect of the culture that was left out in those stories. This graphic novel is labeled as historical fiction and the fact that there is a lengthy conversation with a professor at the end makes me think that the majority of the story is historically accurate. I found it very fascinating that for the most part I think WE, the general public that is, labels the Spartans as great warriors and brave beyond any other culture in history. This story highlights the other darker side of that stereotype. This story paints them in an entirely different light, where they are ruthless power hungry killing machines with little regard for compassion. This is also the first story I have read that makes the Spartans the bad guys if you will, so that was a cool switch up.
However, the story itself was nothing great. In my opinion it failed to suck me in and grab all my attention. To me the most interesting part was, as I mentioned above, the darker side of Spartan culture that is what kept me turning the pages. There were aspects of the story itself that I did find fascinating, but at the end it was a little too anticlimactic. Toward the end I was genuinely interested as to what was going to happen to the main characters as they seemed to have gotten themselves into quite a pickle. The way the final few scenes went down I was a little disappointed, and thought it was a little odd how the story ended. To me if felt like they were building to this big dramatic event, then in a rather silly way it was all over. While I was reading I kept going back and reading the scenes over and over to make sure I was looking at the scenes right, making sure I did not miss anything. I guess at the end of the day I knew what was going to happen, but did not see it all playing out the way it did, which I still think was a little silly based on how the story was trending. Regardless, I felt it could have been worked out differently that would have made it better, but o well.
As I mentioned at the very beginning one of the factors that drew me to this book, was the artwork. It is a traditional style that has enough detail for my liking. I kind of felt the style was reminiscent of an older 70’s style but the color technique modernized it to an extent. I felt the artwork matched well with the story, it was rugged and detailed as you would imagine the scenery was back then. I also liked the color technique in this one. There were a few pages that had a redish tent to all the scenes in one chapter, this added a different feel to the artwork. For the most part the colors in the book are earth tones, lots of reds, browns, mostly duller colors. There are few bright vibrant colors, but this is not an issue at all. In fact I think the color pallet compliments the overall style and time period of the story. I think the artwork meshed with the colors works very well with the genre and time period of the story. The page layouts are mostly average and nothing much to talk about here. There were a handful of different layouts but nothing out of the ordinary.
There are some cool extras in this one including quite a few variety covers. There is also a lengthy interview with a professor about different aspects of Spartan culture. I skimmed this but was way too long for me to read. Still though it was a neat extra to add. There is also a few pencil sketches of page layouts, which I always think are neat.
This story is difficult to judge. The reasons I liked it I am pretty sure no one else would care about. If the story were better overall I would recommend this one. There were aspects of the actual story that everyone could get into, but the problem is that the story started with an intriguing bang, then fizzled down the stretch and ultimately failed to end strong. That is the problem I have with this one. I did like the artwork and the color technique in this one but other than that I say skip this one.