The Incredible Hercules
Based on reader recommendation, I tried The Incredible Hercules, and I’m glad I did. Now I have a superhero title I can follow and enjoy.
I started right when the title changed, with #112. (Previously, the series was The Incredible Hulk.) That issue through #115 are collected as Against the World. Written by Greg Pak (whose work I loved in the already-forgotten Warlock) and Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers, Comic Book Comics) with art by Khoi Pham with Paul Neary and others, this first storyline cleans up after the World War Hulk event. Hercules is hanging out with Amadeus Cho (the character of the year, a super-smart kid who only wants to protect the coyote puppy he carries around in his hoodie) while fighting his brother Ares.
Hercules is a refreshing superhero, too. He operates from the body instead of the brain — working on instinct, and seeming much more down-to-earth as a result. That makes his pairing with Cho a great one, since Hercules can teach Amadeus about life (Herc has lived 3000 years, apparently, so he’s got a lot of experience) while Cho does the planning. Hercules also tries to inspire Amadeus to do the right thing, since like a real kid, Cho hasn’t yet figured out his own morality, focusing only on himself and what he wants. Herc has lots of life lessons to impart, most along the lines of “don’t do as I did.”
The writers also have a sense of humor, as when Herc throws wine barrels at his opponents or Ares narrates completely wrong events to make himself look better on tape. And the flashbacks, which contrast some mythological event or encounter with the current day, are a terrific way to use the character’s unique history in stories that still feel current.
The Secret Invasion hardcover came out this week and collects #116-120. As suggested by the title, it’s a tie-in with the storyline in which Skrulls walk among us and try to take over. In response, Athena (another wonderful character) forms the God Squad, assembling Hercules, Snowbird, Ajak of the Eternals (who?), Mikaboshi, an Eastern god of evil, and Atum the Egyptian who’s also the God-Eater. A visit to Nightmare reveals their fears before they venture into the Skrull Dreamtime.
I like the diversity and the use of unknown characters (which allow the writers greater latitude), as well as Hercules’ self-doubt. Although he’s been part of many teams, he was always a brawler, a “brick”, not a leader, and he’s not sure he’s capable. The art is by Rafa Sandoval and Roger Bonet. Like that of the previous team, it works for me without calling attention to itself, so I don’t have much else to say about it.
Unfortunately, it’s not much of a story if you don’t care about the Skrulls. There are some nice bits about the problems and virtues of caring for others, but not enough of them.
The current storyline, the best yet, is Love and War (art by Clayton Henry), which will be collected next March. I liked this one a lot better, because it gets back to the goofy activities of the classic Herc, with a good dash of sexy for seasoning. To recuperate, Hercules is (ahem) wrestling with Namora, while Amadeus is kidnapped by Amazons who need a breeding stud. (I kept thinking of the other company’s Amazons, and expecting Diana to show up to battle Herc. Given that one of the chapters is called “Bullets and Bracelets”, I’m not the only one.)
What makes this a great superhero comic is its blend of humor, moral questions (“what is the right thing to do in this situation?”), character interaction, and all-around larger-than-life action. Although titled after the Greek God, I think it’s really the story of how Amadeus Cho grows up. Start with #121, out just a couple of months ago, and check out this recommended read.
Find out more at Greg Pak’s website.