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With so many “gods” running around the Marvel Universe it’s
hard to make them all interesting. As a whole, Marvel tends to lean towards the
Norse side favoring Thor and the rest of Asgard over the typically more popular
Greek mythology. That being said, how do you keep Hercules interesting when you
have to constantly compare him to Thor? Hercules compared to Thor, with his
constant do-goodery and his kick ass hammer and natural leadership skills? Well
if you’re Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, you take away his godliness.
At the end of Chaos Wars Hercules was forced to give up his powers of a god in order to defeat his enemy. Now he’s back on Earth, powerless, but still looking to do the right thing. He begins his journey on a subway that becomes over run by a gang calling themselves the Warhawks; which is a pretty damn cool name for a gang. It feels like something out of The Warriors. At any rate they wage “war” on Hercules not knowing who he is. Right off the bat Hercules sets himself apart from other Marvel heroes as he takes the arm off one of the gang members. This opening scene is basically a display of Herc’s weapons that are at his disposal. It shows that he may not have the powers of a god anymore, but he is far from helpless.
After defeating the gang he hears a calling from his worshippers asking for his service and making him an offering of a single can of beer. To quote Herc, “Best offering ever.” I don’t know if this was the first time the concept of followers has been brought up in the comics, but it was great to see them be so accurate with the character and how they incorporated it into the book. After receiving a sign, Herc decides to stay in town a little longer and rid the world of the Warhawks and other gangsters trying to pull a Dodgers stadium and muscle people out of their homes and business for a new arena.
If you’ve never read a book by Van Lente and Pak then you are missing out on two of the best writers at Marvel and in comics today. They duo has been nurturing Hercules back from C-list and on to the A-list for some time now. That’s a feat in and of itself, to take a character that has fallen into obscurity and make them popular again; but also to make them so popular that other creators want to write them as well. For a time Bendis accomplished this with Spider-woman, but since Secret Invasion she’s slipped into that background character void again.
Hopefully the duo keeps their hands on Herc and show comic fans why there’s a need for two godly men in the Marvel U. As good as the characterization of Herc is there was one nagging scene in which after Herc beds a woman he’s just met, he discovers a tattoo of the Warhawks on her arm. Herc freaks out and uses her to locate the gang. I just found it kind of hard to believe that he didn’t notice it until after “they were done.” I can understand him waiting “until they were done”, but not the late discovery on such a petit woman. Just seemed like an after thought is all.
The art is nothing to complain about on this book as penciller Neil Edwards is a surprising talent. His mixture of detailed facial expression with action and average dialog scenes is spot on. Even supporting characters are spared no lack in detail which is refreshing to find. A typical Marvel book is filled with generic characters that even when standing next to a hero look undetailed and practically scribbled on the page.
In general this book was refreshing to read and you wouldn’t even have guess that it came from Marvel. It really seemed more independent until the third act of the book. The fact is if it didn’t make mention of other Marvel characters and also have the appearance of one, this could easily have been an Icon release. The first issue came out on 4/6 so you should still be able to get it, especially since Marvel decided to launch at the same time as their summer blockbuster Fear Itself. If you bought both, I hope you read this one second to wash the taste out of your mouth.
Overall Score – 9.0/10
*Okay For New Readers, but More For Fanboys*