No one reads Frank Miller’s 300 for an accurate history lesson on the Persian Wars. The sequel, Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander, is no different. This April, Miller returns to his mega-popular historical fanfic to tell the story of the Persian king Xerxes and his war against Alexander the Great, a fight that never happened in real life, because both men lived and died a century apart.
On Tuesday, comics publisher Dark Horse announced Xerxes, the long-awaited sequel to Miller’s 1998 stylish graphic novel 300 that served as the basis for the zeitgeist-seizing 2007 film from Zack Snyder. Set after the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, the five-issue Xerxes sees King Xerxes set out to conquer the known world until he crosses paths with the new kid on the war block, Alexander the Great. The first issue will be released on April 4.
In reality, Xerxes I never waged a battle against Alexander the Great. Xerxes I died in 465 BC, while Alexander, who conquered a vast empire that stretched from Greece to northern India, lived a short 32 years from 356 to 323 BC. Alexander also battled King Darius III, over whom he was victorious. So the book’s title isn’t wrong, per se, it’s just playing LEGO with the facts behind it.
Xerxes will also have nothing to do with 2014’s 300: Rise of an Empire, the cinematic sequel to the first movie, which was only partially based on Miller’s idea for Xerxes. Miller was still in the process of writing this new comic when work started and finished Rise of an Empire.
300 ranks among a class of genre work that liberally reinterprets history for thrills, joining Netflix’s Marco Polo, Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the Spike series Deadliest Warrior. This genre also never really went away, as the Snyder movie birthed so many popular memes of the MySpace era.
Miller’s comic, and later the Zack Snyder movie, undoubtedly helped a few bored high school freshmen get through history class back in the day. Published ten years after Miller won acclaim for his reinvention of Batman, the original 300 comic brought the Battle of Thermopylae to life with the same hyper-masculine energy that overwhelmed mainstream superhero comics in the ‘90s. 300 was like reading an army of Greek Batman clones, all with the same noir colors as Sin City. Twenty years later, Xerxes sounds like Batman v Superman, minus the capes, and way more death.
Miller is deep into the second act of his comic book career, with The Dark Knight III: The Master Race holding up better than most critics and even some fans feared. Hopefully Miller will keep up the momentum, as Xerxes will reunite Miller with his Dark Knight III colorist Alex Sinclair.
Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander #1 will be released on April 4.