Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reader's Diary #1049- Frank Miller: 300

My second attempt at a Frank Miller graphic novel and the second disappointment. Not as much as The Dark Knight Returns but with a name as recognized as Miller's, I was hoping to finally understand what the fuss is about.

Not that it's all been good fuss. Reading the Alan Moore vs. Frank Miller stories online has actually proven to be more interesting than the works of either writer. In the case of 300, despite my own issues with the book (which I'll get to eventually), I'd have to side with Miller. Moore and other critics have taken Miller to task for presenting the Spartans inaccurately. Moore calls the book not "very well researched." Have they forgotten the fiction part of the term historical fiction? I was never under any illusion that this was going to be a blow by blow account of actual historical events, but it did inspire me to read other sources on the actual Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae. I can't said I'd have chosen to do that this summer if it hadn't been for Miller, so the man deserves some credit.

My issue with the book is that the characters are flat and entirely static. Presented as war and discipline obsessed manly-men, the Spartans never flinch from this attitude. This may or may not have been accurate, but it doesn't exactly make for compelling story telling. Furthermore, whereas they started out as a fascinating war machine, I found myself questioning at the end why at least one of the soldiers didn't consider the possibility that the conquered life wouldn't have been so brutal as his current life. I guess it showed the impact of their rigorous and lifelong training and indoctrination, but I certainly didn't root for them. I started not to give a damn what happened.

The book, however, is quite stunning and I have to give props to Miller for his illustrations and especially to Lynn Varley for her colour work. Painted in mostly sepia tones with splashes of red, this violent history is stylized so dramatically that it's hard to look away. It's almost enough to save the book, but not quite.

And with 300 I'm done with the 3rd graphic novels edition of "Glaring Omissions," a list I first compiled just back in March. These are lists of well-known or highly regarded works that I feel that anyone who wants to have a discussion on particular topics, should have a passing familiarity with but I don't. I've done similar lists for plays, Canadian books, and a few more. (You can find the lists in the right hand side bar as well as my progress through them). At this point I feel that I've done an admirable job with graphic novels. I can still think of a few more I'd like to read, and I'll certainly continue to do so, but for now I'll forgo making another list. In the meantime, here are links to the last Graphic Novels Glaring Omissions list:
1. Stitches- David Small
2. Fun Home- Allison Bechdel
3. 300- Frank Miller
4. Binky the Space Cat- Ashley Spires
5. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen- Alan Moore
6. Ghost in the Shell- Shirow Masamune
7. Something Old, Something New- Lynn Johnston
8. Blankets- Craig Thompson
9. Naruto, Vol 1. – Masashi Kishimoto
10. Tangles- Sarah Leavitt
11. My New York Diary- Julie Doucet
12. Paul Has A Summer Job - Michel Rabagliati


Swordsman said...

I too was disappointed in the book. It was very short which left very little room for any character development. The movie however, is now one of my favorite war movies

John Mutford said...

Swordsman: I haven't seen the movie yet, though it seems to have gotten cult status.