Monday, June 25, 2012


Ten years before the famed Battle of Thermopylea, the Greeks scored a landmark and pivotal victory against the Persians at Marathon. This book details the life of one of that battle's key figures, here called Eucles, who delivered messages to gather forces and gain allies the only way available back then, by running. (By the way, there are multiple accounts of this story, and the hero's name varies according to the source. He is alternately known as Pheidippides or Thersipus of Erchius). We learn of his early life as a slave, see him earn his citizenship, and wince when he loses his family as part of a hard lesson learned. His role is key, because the Athenians need the assistance of the Spartans, and his task becomes personal when some childhood grudges come to the fore.

Almost as much as it is about Eucles, this is also a book about military strategy. Vastly outnumbered by the Persian forces, who are being marshaled by Hippias, the ex-tyrant of Athens who was ousted by Spartan forces, the Athenians rely on the strategy of Militiades to turn back their foes. The military chess match is a large part of the first half of this book, and my one major negative criticism is that it was difficult to keep straight the separate characters in the early going of the story when scenes cut back and forth. For more historical background about the battle strategies check out these sites.

Marathon is a collaboration between writer Boaz Yakin and artist Joe Infurnari. Yakin is best known as a screenwriter and director. He has written multiple screenplays, including the 1989 movie The Punisher and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. He has also directed films such as Fresh and Remember the Titans. Infurnari is an Eisner Award-nominated artist who is best known for the graphic novel, Mush! Sled Dogs with Issues. His sketchy art style suits the grittiness of this time period well. I also though his action sequences were appropriately frenzied, capturing the bewildering, brutal aspects of Bronze Age combat. He talks more about his life and career in this interview. Infurnari also has a cache of comics online at act-i-vate.

This graphic history has been well received. It was selected a UT School of Information Science Book of the Week, and it has been well reviewed. Kirkus Reviews gave it a coveted starred review. Kris Bather wrote that it is "dramatic, engrossing, really does 'make history come alive.'" A more measured review from Publishers Weekly remarked on how the beginning of the book was somewhat hard to follow but continued, "As the book progresses, and Eucles takes center stage, the book rights itself, and by the end, it is easy to feel oneself racing alongside him toward Athens"

A preview is available here from the book's publisher First Second

Thank you, Gina, for the review copy!

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