(Image Comics, 2013)
Review by Jeremiah Kielman
Story by Kieron Gillen
Artwork by Ryan Kelly
Color Artwork by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Two issues ago our tale began when a smart mouthed Helot tells a true story. Too bad for him that that truth was one no true Spartan could allow any man to utter. And as a Helot, drunk or no, Terpander knew it was as good as walking into the path of a charging bull.
That history was that of the Spartan’s triumphant return from war and the subsequent attack by rebellious Helots with rocks. All three hundred Spartan’s were “…reaped like wheat.” by these nameless Helot’s. Their leader, Arimnestos, who stood so tall and proud in Plataea. Poor Arimnestos, now he was crawling before an untrained, unremembered Helot, with only a lowly rock to do the deed. Fancy armor does little when you’re crawling away.
What does any good dictatorship do with history that doesn’t live up to the party’s ideology? You change that history. That’s what you do. Then you burn any books that don’t line up with the history you’re establishing. Unfortunately for Terpander the Spartan’s don’t write down their history. It’s oral. So the storyteller takes the place of the book on the fire.
After his tale the Spartans fell upon the “helpless” Helots. But they meet with a surprisingly ferocious resistance. Most of it put up by “Klaros”, or as we find out in this issue; Stenyklaros. Stenyklaros where the Helots rose up and slew their masters.
An unlikely hero, but in a good story can there be any other kind? When we first meet Klaros he is cleaning a sheep’s hide, talking with Damar. Who was in turn followed by Terpander. Terpander has been stalking her. Not the “I have a crush on her and want to get to know her” kind of stalking. More the “I hope she stops in the forest so I can rape her” kind of stalking. Nice guy.
Damar’s husband was culled by the Krypteia. The sons of Sparta. The next generation of the status Quo. The future. As a right of passage into manhood each must kill a Helot. And do it without getting caught. He was a large man, a strong man. That is exactly why he was chosen for the culling. The strongest and fittest are the first to die.
This issue begins in the village where the battle of issue #2 took place. A lone helot stands among the three hundred Spartan and their dogs. The Helot is a tracker. His name is Apolex. Under pain of his family’s death he helps track the fugitives.
Apolex confirms Nestos’, or Arimnestos whose namesake was killed in the Helot uprising a hundred years ago, story-that the slaves rose in revolt and slew their masters. So now they believe his story and he is ready to give chase. But they apparently didn’t believe that the oppositions numbers were great enough to flee from and he is labelled coward.
The coward, or the more colorful colloquialism- the trembler, in Sparta holds a unique place in society. Slaves, women, children, even Helots could and would beat them on a whim. To go from prince to trembler must be more shocking a transition. When your own mother won’t talk to you and merchants mock you in the street, all with the pitter-smack of rocks the pack of kids that follows you throw constantly, it makes one want to take drastic measures.
Nestos certainly takes desperate measures. Stealing his grandfather’s armor and weapons from their shrine he sets out, cloak torn, face shaven in ritual punishment, he hires a foreigner Aristodemos as a tracker. Having established the new pecking order quickly Aristodemos proves himself an amazing guide.
In the pouring rain he leads Nestos to the three Helots who have just fought their way across the Eurotas river on their way to Messene. We are left here, at least until next month. Will Nestos and Aristodemos ask to join them? Invite them to a picnic? Express their undying love for the trio? Or they might just attack. We’ll see. And see you all next week. (4/5)