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Monday, September 23, 2019

"Thermopylae!" - a Review from Blazing Combat 4

Blazing Combat #4 (July 1966)
Archie Goodwin-Reed Crandall

Have you read Frank Miller's 300? Seen the film of the same name? Strike me down and call me stupid, but I've not encountered either. Oh, I obviously know what they are - just never got round to it. So I was a little surprised as I was reading through the Blazing Combat hardcover collection to see today's story. It started off as a feature that was apparently going to be about a couple of British soldiers, but then a page turn and WOW! Let's check it out...

100-Word Review:
Two British soldiers await their next orders, having become part of an attachment hoping to delay the Wehrmacht’s capture of Athens in 1941. One of the men decides to give his comrade a history lesson, a lesson of that time in history when 300 Spartans held off the far-superior invading forces of Xerxes the Great of Persia. The battle was fought hard, and Xerxes was frustrated. In the end, the Persian king was victorious, but not before those 300 Spartans became the stuff of legend. But what of the resistance to Hitler’s Wehrmacht? How would they fare?

The Good: Score one for History, because it obviously gave the creators an outstanding story to adapt. That being said, Archie Goodwin and Reed Crandall knock it out of the park. I've said it here in the past, but I feel like I've missed a major boat in my comics-reading career that I haven't encountered Reed Crandall's work until recently. That man is a talent among talents! To turn this story from page 1 to page 2 is to almost step back in time a few thousand years. Crandall's depictions of the various parties in allegiance to Xerxes is just stellar. And Goodwin's script is just as good as anything else he wrote in Blazing Combat. I have to give Goodwin a lot of credit, as he worked with over a dozen artists during the 4-issue run of this magazine, and he meshed with each of them. His work is to be commended as much as any of the artists.

As to the actual story, I enjoyed the framing sequences. Obviously we know how the story turned out for the Greeks and the Persians, and we know how it went with the Germans and their victory over the Allies. The two period stories dovetail nicely.

The Bad: Nothing at all to say here today.

The Ugly: Likewise, not a single aspect of this story to dislike. It's all positive feedback on this Monday!


  1. I haven't read 300 but I have seen the film. Neither comic nor film is meant to be historically accurate and presents a fantastical version of the events - for example, Xerxes is portrayed as a giant, about 10 feet tall.

    1. Thanks, Colin. Now you're making me want to see the movie!


  2. Like Colin, I've seen the movie but haven't read Miller's graphic novel - but based on the former, I'm completely uninterested in the latter.

    The story here looks great, though. Yeah, Crandall was truly an amazing artist. And yeah, no arguments from me about Goodwin's writing talent. The guy was a master of the craft.

  3. Great story and art! Obviously I've got to acquire a copy of this "Blazing Combat" volume. Doug, you spoke of 'missing the boat'regarding Reed Crandall. I missed the ship of dramatic war comics. Totally wrote them off as a youth. Now I seek them out specifically for the likes of Crandall, Kubert, Reese and the like.


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