Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Ryan Kelly
Colours: Jordie Bellaire
Lettering: Clayton Cowles
Historical Consultant: Professor Stephen Hodgkinson
Publisher: Image Comics
At the beginning of Frank Miller’s seminal tale 300, we see a young Spartan expertly hunting and killing a pack of wolves. This young boy, pitted against nature, outnumbered but never outmatched, showcases the brutality of the Spartan culture. While the Spartans in 300 are made out to be a heroic race of warrior legends, the truth is that the Spartans were just as ruthless as their Persian counterparts a fact that Kieron Gillen is happy to tell in his new series Three from Image Comics.
Three #1 tells the tale of three helots who long to be free. The helots– a slave nation that was ruled over by the Spartans, are seen as less than human and the opening pages of the book show the Spartans hunting these poor souls for sport. When a group of Spartans stop to make camp in a small helot village, things get heated and the helots, like the Persians before them, find out just how dangerous the Spartans can be.
Gillen’s concern for historical accuracy is commendable—he did have an actual professor as a consultant, but he fails to offer the empathy needed to care for the three main characters. Aside from natural anti-slavery feelings readers probably have, the three themselves are cookie-cutter figures against a cookie-cutter villain. This could change as the series progresses, but at this point, the helots and their plight fails to resonate with the reader which makes for a wholly unforgettable read.
Ryan Kelly, who manages to capture the era perfectly, appears to be holding back for something big further down the line. Aside from the opening hunt and the final slaughter, the art is rather subdued. However one cannot fault Kelly, or Jordie Bellaire’s palette for this. This is a tale of slaves, not one of grandiose heroes, and it works within the confines of the story. Yet, as stated before, when violence comes into play, Kelly starts to shine and it will be interesting to see how he handles the story going forward.
While historical accurate and unique, Three #1 reads more like a Wikipedia summary than a comic. This could all change in the following issues, however at this point, a simple Google search can save you three dollars.