It’s the chief indicator of a clever creative mind – only the best writers can take a story and personalize it, while somehow preserving the work’s core sensibilities. Fanboys will remember Frank Miller for his dark and heavy brutalization of notable characters Daredevil and Batman, but even those revolutionary makeovers were primers for the graphic novelist’s latest comic-turned-film yarn: “”300.””
I consider the blood-drenched opus – following the inevitable death of a Spartan king in the Battle of Thermopylae, where his 300-man phalanx is outmatched by an invading Persian horde – to be Miller’s most underappreciated work.
Yes, the author did modernize Batman. And yes, his “”The Dark Knight Returns,”” a dark and tortured take on an aged Bruce Wayne, did become the current normative understanding of the character.
But true Miller fans, especially the ones who live to see him operate in a creatively open arena, should sneer a bit at the writer’s translation of the character; Miller left DC Comics after he published the graphic novel, complaining he was being handcuffed by the corporate comic world. For a writer so attuned to the sinister and violent sides of human nature, it was a shame to see a waste of that awareness.
However, Miller’s reformation of Greek history (under the flag of indie publisher Dark Horse) has no similar scruples about carnality and violence. Half-naked Spartans patrol the scenic expanse of Greece, and swordplay often means the detachment of limbs, all illustrated by Miller himself in an off-center, edgy style.
Though blood and gore are the essence of “”300,”” substance and meaning provide a foundation for the carnage. Miller’s knack for engaging dialogue and narrative asides maintains attention to the story itself. The source material is a perfect fit for Miller, a bluntly crude and character-based writer. The story’s themes of glory, bravery and lost causes combine with a primitive wartime setting to form one of modern-day comics’ best semi-historical pieces.