The 300 Spartans in Frank Miller’s 300 are underdogs in only one sense – they are outnumbered. As an army of Persia advances on Greece, reason and freedom are threatened by a dictatorship of mysticism and oppression. Despite their imminent slaughter, the Spartans hold their ground in a last effort of defiance, and this is their story. It’s a powerful tale of heroic sacrifice in which Miller pushes archetypal honor and duty to the extreme.

Dark and gritty, you’ll appreciate these men for their unwavering bravery, the faith they place in their tireless leader, and their exaltation of a pure life. However, their brutal and horrific lifestyles greatly contrast our modern values, in which men ritually abuse each other a la college fraternities, young boys are thrown into the wilderness to prove themselves, and babies are routinely killed if they don’t meet Spartan standards.

As a comic, this savage fable provides lots of very cool gnarly illustrations. I will admit that the overabundance of male nudity left me quite uncomfortable in some places. However, Lynn Varley’s color palette is subtle and unique, and the large panels are used quite well, both in terms of stark simple imagery and complex battle scenes, in which bodies almost seem to coalesce into one another. As a side note, I’d also recommend seeing the movie. This one translates onto the big screen quite well, which I think is mostly due to it’s lack of characters and simple plot.

If you appreciate simple themes of honor and duty (if you’re a Klingon at heart), and don’t think too hard about character or setting or plot, and you’re not squeamish about ritualistic violence, then this short read is well worth your time.

“A thousand nations of the Persian empire will descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!”

“Then we will fight in the shade.”