The Incredible Hercules is one of my favorite books out right now, and I was hoping this “jumping on” point would be the best opportunity for the series to do all the talking for me. As I write this, I haven’t heard the reaction from the others, but I doubt I’ll have succeeded in proving my point. It wasn’t a bad issue, necessarily, it was just rather substandard. And for $4?
Hercules #126 was pretty segmented. His origin story took place in ancient, in-continuity Greece, followed by a catch-up piece for any new readers this book is hoping to pick up, and finished out with a light-hearted, but still moving, story of Amadeus Cho’s search for his lost pup.
It’s segmented in more than just story, however, and while the writing team showcases their diversity by bringing in Planet Hulk-style action, and Hercules-style humor, it’s too bad they couldn’t mix them together a bit more evenly. I’m not completely turned off by action comics these days, but they’re so much smarter when they pepper in a bit of smirking wit. B.C.-period writing tends to get a bit heavy-handed as it is.
So we’ve got his origin, which, as you would expect from a warrior god-halfling, is full of posturing, honor, and performance. On the other side we’ve got the super-intelligent Cho trying to unearth the whereabouts of the coyote pup he lost somewhere between World War Hulk and Secret Invasion. And hello, look guys, it’s the Hulk! Remember him from back when he still owned this book? Yeah, those were good times (and yeah, I’m still bitter, Marvel). In the middle is the series recap, which dryly parses Herc’s early Marvel appearances, and then divulges the details of a lot of recent events, including World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, and other spin-offs and universe-wide events—yawn.
Two things about the recap: one, it felt really unnecessary, because Hercules’s and Cho’s adventures have been pretty episodic. They haven’t been thickly embroidered with multiple subplots, just one light-hearted adventure after another. This eliminates any real demand to know everything that has happened before. Two, Pak & Van Lente have done these things so much better in previous issues, usually taking historic documents or mythic poems and scribbling all over them, humorously adapting them to the current plot at hand.
As the solicits mentioned, yeah, I suppose this issue is technically a good jumping-on point, because there isn’t a reliance on continuity, but nothing really happened, either. Honestly, it read more like an annual, even down to the doubled page count. Here is a story that wraps up a loose end on one side of the string, and here is another story that wraps up another loose end on the opposite side of the yarn. But did anybody demand these stories? Hell, next issue will also be a good jumping on point, and, in fact, these convenient milestones have already occurred several times throughout Hercules’s short run, and they’ve all been a lot more interesting: that is, they actually go somewhere.
So, okay, I picked a bad time to convince the legions of Doomkopf to jump on, but Hercules the book, like Hercules the character, is always moving. I have faith in Zeus that next month will be back on track when the plot starts to gear up again.
Newcomer Doomsday Spa is also chiming in with his thoughts on the ish:
I’ve not read any issues since The Incredible Hulk turned into the Incredible Hercules, and I half expected to see the Disney animated versions of the characters with the voices of Danny Devito and Bob “Cat” Goldthwait as background monsters. I was relieved to read that The Incredible Hercules had no Disney references that I could glaringly see. I know very little about the Marvel version of the Greek hero, but I have a fair amount of experience reading Greek and Roman mythology in my art history background. (Also, on a side note, I really hate DC’s version of the character that appears in Wonder Woman). Other than that, the only thing I ever read of note from the character, was his role in World War Hulk, where he was an ally to the green monster.
So, now that we have established that I’m reading this as an “outsider” to the title, let me point out a few things. I am glad they at least referenced the original mythology. There is a Conan kind of feel when we first run into our hero. Taking on an invading army, and ticking off people while doing it. I really enjoyed this story, and from what I’ve been told, Hercules has been a consistently good book. Much to my surprise, I really overall enjoyed this origin story of a character that is older than almost every hero in existence. But that brings me to my complaint…
Why is this comic book an oversized, extra pages issue? Is it because it’s an origin, or because it’s a “special” number? Everyone knows that the number 126 is an important number to the Roman Empire… or something like that. (Even though the book has only been Herc’s title for a short time.) What is with Marvel charging $3.99, calling something special… then having a handful of re-printed extra pages and maybe a side story that has little to no interest to me?
I really liked this book, I’d recommend reading The Incredible Hercules to any comic fan, but I am sick of the unwanted extras that companies feel obligated to charge us with. Now I understand that Marvel is slowly changing all their title to be a cover price of $3.99, across the board. (Eventually?) I’m seeing this trend more and more in comic books everywhere. DC with their 4–8 pages of “Origins and Omens”, and recently in Thor 600. Half of that book I could care less about. I really feel like this affected my opinion of the Hercules origin story more than anything else. I get to a certain page… I’m enjoying the story, and guess what? You have half a book left, and it’s a secondary story, and some re-print material, showing how much we like Hercules. I would have traded those extra pages for more of that well written, main story that mattered. I hate to say this, skip Hercules…and maybe watch the Disney version.
At first, Hercules took me aback a little. I was confused as to when it would jump forward to the present, what with the “established Marvel universe character” thing. So it took me a while to warm to it, as I wasn’t sure how invested I was supposed to be in the current situation, and it seemed the writers were feeling the same way.
But by the end of the main story, I was amused and a little intrigued. There were good bits of physical comedy, like Hercules’s reaction to getting asked if an action was intentional, and how he responds to it by saying a poker-faced yes. It’s also interesting to see Marvel doing period pieces, if you can remotely call it that.
However, the lightness of it gave off a “What’s the point in that?” vibe to certain events, like him fighting the three men in the beginning when he dispells their myths about him. I guess we just had to see exactly how strong and awesome he was.
The back-up story was absolutely worthless. A kid with a missing dog learning a lesson? Given the earlier part of the book—violence, barely covered nudity, etc.—this was a poor fit, and poorly written and illustrated to boot. The fact that this is what probably drove the price up to $3.99 is just offensive.
Overall, while entertaining, I’m not certain that this series is something I’d put on my pull list—but I might check out the collected edition at my library.
Finally, Jim Doom‘s thoughts:
As the cover says, this is “the origin of Hercules,” and I have to say that I actually really liked the way in which it gave the mythical Hercules some broad context in the Marvel Universe. It was a fun little story that weaved together mythology and superheroics that I especially appreciated because I’ve never spent any effort whatsoever trying to learn a thing about Marvel’s Hercules.
Then there were several pages bridging the origin story to now, which were okay. This is partly the geek in me (but also the amateur marketer seeing money left on the table), but when comics publishers do these recaps, I would love some kind of footnote or parenthetical reference telling me in which issues or reprinted volumes these stories happened. Sometimes the stories sound really interesting, and if I wanted to read more, I’d know right where to go. As it is, I don’t.
Anyway, I didn’t care much for the backup story, “The Search for Kirby.” I sort of remember Amadeus Cho from World War Hulk, but I never learned enough to care about him. This story made me really dislike him, and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth about the issue.
While I can’t say I disliked Incredible Hercules #126, I came away a little underwhelmed. While I knew from the preview that it was about his origin, I didn’t expect it to be just an origin story. I’m glad it had that—and I definitely enjoyed that as a story—but I feel like it was so removed from any sense of a current ongoing series context that it failed as a jumping-on point because I don’t have an idea of what the next issue will be like.
I’m actually being somewhat selective in my recall, because if the backup story about the kid trying to find his coyote is an indication of where the series is going, I definitely won’t continue reading. I’m choosing to believe that it was just a backup story, as short as it is inconsequential. I don’t want to read an ongoing series about a kid who will endanger others for stupid reasons just because he’s an immature kid.
So that’s my dilemma. I either feel like the book didn’t tell me where it’s going, or if it did, I don’t like where it’s going. So I’m not sure which reality to pick, because I’m not crazy about either.
And back to me, Doom Fritter, for some brief closing thoughts:
Apparently, I was the only one who enjoyed the Amadeus Cho backup story. You could blame it on the fact that I’m a dog lover, which did give me a greater appreciation for Cho’s predicament, or maybe it’s because I just have a greater familiarity with the character (and his coyote friend) by this point. The truth is, Cho is truly the character that keeps me coming back to Hercules. That said, there’s no denying that our reviewers gave Hercules #126 an across-the-board meh.