Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Ryan Kelly, Jordie Bellaire
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: February 26, 2014
Three – a vividly-drawn, immensely-researched and captivating series from Kelly, Gillen, and Bellaire, among the industry’s best – draws to a violent, bloody close with this issue, sealing the fate of the three slaves that defied their Spartan masters.
Kelly wows again in this installment, capturing pain and anguish in panel, telling Gillen’s story with such well-sequenced visuals there is scarce need to read the dialogue. The clatter of weapons and endless splatter of blood and rain have no need for textualized sound, because everything Kelly draws pulls his audience into the helots’ story, cramped inside what may become their stone-walled tomb. Cloaks billow, teeth grit, exhaustion and mourning fix on weary features – and Kelly is a master of it all, including definitive inks that give his pencils extra strength. No panel lacks significance to the eye. No page is turned without another tense twist of the reader’s stomach.
Bellaire takes Kelly’s work and gives it mood, from the cold colors that drench the doomed helots in their cave to the soft glows of dawn as their last stand is made outside. The reds of blood and Spartan garb, the spill of gold as firelight illuminates shield and helmet both, the orange-splotched smears of guilty memories, the brightness of a foreign shore and its peoples’ clothing; there is no stumble to the life Bellaire gives this book.
To mention the fantastic presentation Kelly and Bellaire make of the issue’s final pages would be to spoil its conclusion, but trust that it’s gorgeous work.
Beneath this visual finery is the foundation that is Gillen’s work, made solid by extensive research and passion that’s unshakably part of every step the story takes and every word uttered by its players. Gillen cares about these helots, and so shall his readers, endeared by their strength in the face of certain death, their defiance, their humor, their history. Likewise, Gillen inspires hatred and frustration with his villain, wielding fate that is as cruel and stupid as life – and history – has always been.
The story’s only shortcoming is that there is not enough of it, a mirror of the history that Gillen tirelessly dug through to create this comic.
The Verdict: 10/10