Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Random Reviews: The Incredible Hercules

I have a confession to make.  When I pick up my comic order every month, the first comic book I read is The Incredible Hercules.  No other comic book I read consistently delivers action-adventure with such a quirky sense of humor.  Well, at least not since Darwyn Cooke’s run on The Spirit.

As Herc would tell you, real men wear skirts If you had told me five years ago that one of my favorite comic books would be starring Marvel Comic’s Hercules, I would have thought you were crazy.  Heck, I doubt I would have believed that Hercules could headline his own comic, let alone that I would be reading it.

Enter writer Greg Pak and artist Fred Van Lente.  In the wake of World War Hulk, Hercules and boy genius Amadeus Cho are on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. for aiding and abetting the Hulk in his plans to seek revenge against those who have wronged him (a.k.a. pretty much everyone).  They are being pursued by the Mighty Avengers, particularly Hercules’ half-brother Ares, the god of war. The book follows the pair’s misadventures as they run from the law, blunder into a war between the Earth and Skrull gods, and end up fighting against an Amazonian invasion.

What is great about The Incredible Hercules is that it does a great job of mixing mythology and Marvel Comics continuity together.  When enumerating the reasons why Ares hates Hercules, Greg Pak draws a direct line from the original Greek myth to the Champions of Los Angeles without ever seeming forced.  While the tone of the book is lighter, the effortlessness with which Greg Pak pulls this mix of comic history and mythology off is reminiscent of Walt Simonson on Thor.

The book also succeeds as a buddy comedy.  Hercules, the strongest (but not the brightest) of the gods, and Amadeus Cho, the seventh smartest person in the world, is obviously a great comic mismatch.  What makes it work is the fact that the two friends obviously need one another.  Without someone like Amadeus Cho around, Hercules simply lacks direction.  As Hercules tells Amadeus Cho himself, he has always been more of a follower than a leader. 

On the other hand, Amadeus Cho has no problem taking initiative.  Instead, he needs someone like Hercules to pull him back from the brink.  He needs someone to be his conscious, someone to tell him that just because you can destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t mean you should.

If you are looking for a fun action-adventure super hero comic, I can’t recommend The Incredible Hercules enough.  Even better, unlike most comic books I have reviewed on my blog, The Incredible Hercules is currently an ongoing monthly title.  So for once you may be able to enjoy this comic at the full cover price instead of picking up the reasonably priced trade paperbacks.

Hmmm… Maybe this is not the worlds best selling point.