At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a group of about 60 women from the region of Souli, fled into the mountains surrounding the small village of Zalongo, loaded down with their infant children. The Souliote women were steps ahead of invading Ottoman troops that sought to exterminate the troublesome Greeks. Commanded by the area’s regent (called a “pasha”), Ali of Ioannina, the Ottoman forces pursued the Souliote women to a nearby cliff.
Legend tells that the women, faced with a choice between enslavement or death, made their decision gleefully. Children clutched in their arms, the women of Souli leaped off the cliff, singing and dancing all the way down.
Early in the pages of Sons of Chaos, writer Chris Jaymes and artist Ale Aragon tackle this shocking tragedy with a co-mingled ferocity and intimacy that flavors much of the ensuing story of Souliote hero and Greek patriot Markos Botsaris.
The Untold Story of Markos Botsaris
For those who don’t know the name, Markos Botsaris is a Greek national hero born to a Souliote leader at the end of the eighteenth century. Botsaris’ mother was one of those ladies who threw themselves off that aforementioned cliff. His father, Kitsos Botsaris, was killed by Ali Pasha of Ioannina shortly after.
After fleeing his homeland alongside the scraps of his people that remained, Botsaris spent years embracing battle and training to become a field leader before he swept back into Souli at the head of a rebellion.
Poised somewhere between real history and the folk myth of Markos Botsaris, Sons of Chaos spins an intimate yarn amid world-changing events. Jaymes captures Botsaris’ transformation from reluctant kid to battle-hardened hero with an eloquence that is intensely engaging from the first page to the last. It doesn’t hurt that Ale Aragon’s gorgeous art is visceral and composed in equal measure, which makes for a hell of a compelling visual experience.
A Disclaimer for People Who Hate Learning
Turned off by the whole “historical” part of Sons of Chaos? It’s worth mentioning that in between all that emotional resonance, there are some legitimately awesome scenes of violence (if that’s your thing). Aragon’s art is kinetic and poetic in the same breath, and Jaymes’ pacing is fierce. Sons of Chaos feels something like a historical tapestry produced with a million-dollar budget, and that’s never a bad thing.
It’s also worth noting that the noble journey of Markos Botsaris runs parallel to the machinations of Ali Pasha of Ioannina, a man who, in Jaymes’ skilled hands, becomes one of the most deliciously wicked a-holes in recent comic memory. Repulsive, conniving, and infinitely enjoyable to watch, Ali Pasha is a standout character who makes diving into Sons of Chaos a worthwhile endeavor all on its own.
The Fall and Rise of a Reluctant Savior
The narrative of Sons of Chaos wanders off from the historical account from time to time. The graphic novel unabashedly favors raising dramatic stakes over historical integrity. As a result, people who aren’t familiar with the story of Markos Botsaris would do well to follow up on the facts as a counterpoint to Jaymes’ tale.
All that said, no one begrudged Quentin Tarantino a few historical inaccuracies in Inglourious Basterds or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, because docudrama wasn’t the director’s goal. In the same way, Jaymes’ graphic novel eschews specific details in favor of evoking a truth at the heart of one of history’s most pivotal moments. The result is a book that is fun, beautiful, stirring, and completely worth your time.
Check out the graphic novel from IDW Publishing right here.