Review - Three #1

"The only surprise is that your throat has not been slit in the night."

Works that look at history are always fun. Works that take that history pretty seriously are both fun and educational. Three #1 from Image Comics aims to be both and it hits. Three #1 is written by Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, colored by Jordie Bellaire and lettered by Clayton Cowles.

Greece has a rather storied history of brutality, with Spartans as violent oppressors of The Helots, a slave race. Over a century after the events of 300, the Spartan empire is facing extinction. Klaros is a Helot crippled during the Spartan War and now confined to a cane, Damar is a widow who works with Klaros and Terpander is a somewhat charming Helot. Klaros gets top billing in the issue, which provides everything Sparta, save for the dramatic, slow-motion kicking of warriors down wells.

Kelly and Gillen's story distances itself from Frank Miller's 300. It's not that they were trying to pick up where he left off or live in that universe, but many will attempt to make those comparisons regardless. Their version of Sparta features more rigid classism on display than what was shown in 300. That work relied on the violence of the 300 soldiers fighting off the invading Persians; Three #1 likes to focus more on the civilization these warriors inhabited instead. Spartans are depicted as pretty much horrible people; a testament to their one-track approach to life that centered on oppression through violence.

Kelly's art is very slick and stylized. Bellaire mixes in a lot of oranges, browns and reds throughout and Kelly doesn't rely on an overabundance of blood to convey the violence of the Spartans. Characters feature very detailed bodies, where muscles are accented very well to get across the type of physical world the Spartans and Helots inhabited. Everyone looks sufficiently angry as well; again, demonstrating the violent rage that was necessary to make it in that dangerous world. Times in Sparta were very desperate and that desperation is brought to life well through Kelly's illustrations.

Three #1 is a very strong first issue that offers a less than revealed view of Spartan society. Spartans were very angry and unforgiving and the creative team seemed to do their homework to help make the book rather accurate. There's a lot to like for everyone, regardless of your knowledge of Sparta. This isn't Frank Miller's version and it's not trying to be. It's attempting to be something different and maybe even more realistic in a sense as well. The book fires on all cylinders and is poised to be the start of a great story.

Three #1 is in stores now with interiors below.