This graphic novel opens with the first triumph of the legendary Greek courier (in this case renamed Eucles) over the tyrant king Hippias’ own son, the death of his parents at Hippias’ hands, and the tyrant’s exile a decade later. With that bit of backstory nimbly taken care of in the first few pages, the tale jump-cuts ahead to the day before the legendary battle, the Persian army ready to land at Greek shores, with Hippias at its side. If this is familiar to readers (or viewers) of 300, it should be, since the setup is essentially the same. But Yakim and Infurnari take a distinctly different angle, casting the Persians as worthy opponents for the Greeks to engage in battle. The focus is on strategy, which allows heroics to come out of the characters’ wits and will, rather than displays of rippling muscle. However, this focus on character is damaged by a sketchlike visual aesthetic that renders the characters’ faces looking nearly identical. This is frustrating early in the book, when the action focuses more heavily on the efforts of the army than on Eucles. 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. (June)
Marathon gets righteous due and so does its greatest hero." - Kirkus Reviews
Set in 490 BCE, this graphic novel tells the story of the battle at Marathon and the vital role Eucles, a legendary Greek messenger, played. Eucles is sent to Sparta to implore the Spartans to join the war effort against Hippias and the Persian army. He runs 153 miles in just over a day, only to learn the Spartans will not journey to Athens for another ten days. Eucles runs back to deliver the devastating message, and musters up the energy to not just fight in the battle at Marathon, but set the pace for advance and inspire the troops. After an initial victory, the Persian army heads by boat to an unprotected Athens. Eucles sets off to run the twenty six miles from Marathon to Athens, to warn the city of the attack. Pursued by Hippias and his army the entire way, Eucles is determined to outrace them, despite his exhaustion. Though the plot starts out slowly, Eucles's journeys and the battle quickly move the pace forward. The sepia-toned illustrations are frenzied blurs of swords and motion, punctuated with sound effects like "BAP!" and "KRANG!" Most pages have a lot of text, but at times the text is nearly absent, allowing the sketches to carry the story. The intense action will keep readers' interest as they learn about a battle that not only preserved democracy, but was one of the defining moments in the creation of the Western culture. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
The legend of the Greek messenger who ran from Marathon to Athens with the news of the Greek victory over the Persians in 490 BC has had many incarnations over the years. The basic story has remained unchanged: the messenger was able to tell the Athenians about the victory and thus enable them to ultimately defeat the Persians and save Greek democracy. The details, however, have always been in dispute. In this version, the hero’s name is Eucles and he has a troubled personal life: a difficult childhood, and, later on, a childless marriage which is a source of sadness for Eucles and his wife. Nevertheless, the focus in this book is on the action in the battle scenes, brilliantly illustrated by Joe Infurnari. The brown-toned illustrations are large, detailed, and often full-page; they alone are enough to capture the reader’s attention. Unfortunately, the text of the story does not match the high standards of the illustrations. The tale is crowded with characters and historical references that serve to distract attention from the mission of the main character. The dialog is sometimes unnecessarily complicated and ranges from formal language (perhaps in an attempt to recall ancient Greece society) to modern colloquialisms, producing an often-jarring effect. Despite the obvious significance and danger of Eucles’ journey, there is no map in the booka glaring omission. While readers who are interested in battles and Greek and Persian history may find this story interesting, the tale as told here is ultimately unsatisfying, especially when compared with the wonderful artwork. Reviewer: Leona Illig; Ages 9 to 14.
Children's Literature - Leona Illig
Gr 9 Up—As a young boy, Eucles wins a foot race and is granted Athenian citizenship, but because he did this at the cost of the pride of King Hippias, his parents are executed. Years later, the king, now exiled, is using the might of the Persian army to try and conquer Athens. Eucles must swallow his desire for personal vengeance and race to deliver communications between Athens, Sparta, and the battlefield of Marathon. Historical accounts of the run between Sparta and Marathon vary significantly, and Yakin has been free with interpretation. He establishes motivation for Eucles, making him singularly inspirational and instrumental in not just delivery of information, but in turning the tide of the Battle of Marathon itself. This has the effect of making the events very personal, and therefore imbued with dramatic tension. Also, it helps provide a lens to focus the action, which is necessary as the cast is sprawling and the narrative is nonlinear. The characters are given nicely varied names, helping somewhat with sorely needed identification, as armor and intensity help make a morass of who is whom. The artwork is drawn in a sketchy, energetic style, a kinetic messiness that helps underscore the blood, dirt, and movement. Spot color gives the main action a parchment glow, and a cool gray helps indicate flashbacks. Interestingly complex for a story about a series of runs, and aesthetically compelling, this story will grip readers, who will fight through its occasional muddles along with its protagonist.—Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH
Retold in Expressionistic blurs of action, this account of the battle of Marathon chronicles at once a glorious win for the underdogs and an awe-inspiring personal achievement. Cruel Hippias, former king of Athens, is on his way back with a huge army of Persians to reclaim the throne and crush Athenian democracy. As the city's squabbling and much smaller forces hustle to meet the invaders, Eucles, Athens' best runner, is charged to race the 153 miles to Sparta in hopes of finding an ally. Battling heat, sun, bandits and pursuing enemy troops, Eucles makes the trek, then makes it in reverse with the dismaying news that the Spartans will not be coming in time. He joins the savage fight and
then runs 26 more miles over rugged mountains to Athens--dying on arrival but not before both announcing the victory and warning of an impending surprise attack by sea. Using sepia washes to indicate present time and black and white for flashbacks, Infurnari fills patchwork panels with glimpses of rugged faces, slashing swords and jumbles of martial action with "KLAK" "CHK!" sound effects. Yakin draws from ancient historical and legendary sources but adds invented incidents to round out Eucles' character and elevated dialogue to heighten the epic atmosphere: "The gods have laid a feast both bitter and sweet before me." Among the most historically and culturally significant battles ever fought, Marathon gets righteous due--and so does its greatest hero. (Graphic historical fiction. 12-15)