By Kieron Gillen, Ryan Kelly, & Jordie Bellaire
Three, the fresh and exciting tale of Helot slaves’ defiance against their Spartan overlords, had an incredible first issue last month. It was an interesting way to start the series and provided a great place for issue #2 to begin. The latest installment picks up directly after the first book and managed to surpass expectations. This was a perfect comic book in every respect.
Three #2 begins amidst the slaughter which ended issue #1. The pace here is superb and the whole scene feels very frantic and suspenseful as the Helots struggle against certain death. From the all-out Spartan cruelty and the pained and horrified expressions of the slaves, everything was amazingly palpable and moving. When Klaros gives the Helots a chance to fight back the slaughter makes a full 180 degree turn and this was equally gripping. Actually, this was one of the most satisfying scenes witnessed in recent memory, as the slaves’ expressions and actions abruptly shift from fear and horror to vengeful bloodlust and fanaticism. However, this comprises only about half of the issue. The rest of Three #2 really deepens the readers’ background on Spartan culture that is, of course, a much more accurate representation than that seen in previous fictional adaptations of Sparta. Instead of gratuitously throwing information at the reader, Kieron Gillen works everything into the story with purpose. In issue #2 we learn more about Spartan myths, sexuality, and politics. Every aspect of the latter half of this book somehow managed to remain just as enthralling as the earlier portion. The character interactions all feel genuine and the sincerity of the dialogue allows the emotion to seemingly seep off of the page and become tangible. Everything was written with intelligence, and fantastic pacing and story organization. Even the political discourse felt suspenseful and deep. We’re also starting to gain a fuller idea of what state Sparta is currently in compared to neighbouring regions.
It’s not just Kieron Gillen’s incredible script that makes this such a great book; Ryan Kelly and Jordie Bellaire display an astonishing sense of detail. Every page in this book feels “full” without becoming cluttered. This aspect along with the strategic paneling really helps the flow of Three #2 and lends a further sense of power to each scene. The illustrations have a latent realism meshed with a suitable but subtle grit that suits the tone of each scene with perfect precision. The lighting and shadowing are impeccable, while Bellaire’s colors deepen each image even further. Subtle shifts in coloring also help to illustrate various flashbacks and storytelling scenes as well, particularly those involving great battles which are presented in greyscale with red spatters of blood overlaying each panel. As previously noted, the facial expressions throughout issue #2 perfectly capture the emotion of each scene. However, there are some other great minor details which appear to sit innocuously in the background. However, upon first noticing these details they really add to the story. A great example is when the Spartans are first told that one of the ephors has been killed by Helots, at which point smirks can be seen on the faces of passing slaves in the background. Minor details like this, along with the deep and lush visuals in which issue #2 is presented provide a very cinematic read. Even the landscapes of Greece are given the artists’ full attention amidst the character interactions, and the reader can really become lost in the depth of this book.
Three #2 was an astonishing book. There was so much story background and development packed into a single issue without feeling cluttered or overburdened in any sense. The story has become even more absorbing as the reader is allowed to become involved from multiple angles. Three has a certain “flavor” in its presentation, particularly the overall story, which feels pleasantly different. While it’s always exciting to see what comes next, each scene in this latest installment felt satisfying in its own right, omitting any potential filler material. The plot is moving at an excellent pace while it just keeps getting bigger and more wide-ranging. Three has action, emotion, drama, and a lot of intelligence. While the series had a terrific start, issue #2 has set the bar even higher.