Friday, March 21, 2008

REVIEW :: Incredible Hercules #114

by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, and Khoi Pham
reviewed by Jason Wheatley

One of the larger “Wait…what?” moments of the aftermath of the “World War Hulk” storyline was the creation of the new Hulk title and the change of The Incredible Hulk to The Incredible Hercules. Of course, with the Hulk being one of Marvel’s big guns, readers flocked to his new title, leaving poor Herc overlooked. While Jeph Loeb writes the adventures of the red Hulk in the new title, the writer who blew everyone away with the “Planet Hulk” and “World War Hulk” storylines, Greg Pak, stayed behind to write what has quickly become one of Marvel’s most underrated titles.

Incredible Hercules picks up where World War Hulk left off, with Hercules and boy genius Amadeus Cho on the run for being unregistered and siding with the Hulk during the war. Besides having the forces of SHIELD on their trail, Herc’s brother, the Avenger Ares, wants to see them go down as well. And Ares isn’t very nice about it.

Pak and Fred Van Lente bring all kind of action to each issue of Incredible Hercules – a “talking heads” book, this ain’t. But they add depth to all the smashing and bashing by tying in the myths of Hercules; his famous twelve labors, for instance. The myths not only parallel the story in the present day, they also provide a look into Hercules’ mind and give him motivation. Their use adds another level to a character who previously was fairly one-note – the jovial, beer-drinking strong man. Amadeus Cho is another fine example of characterization – he comes across exactly as you might expect a bratty teenager with Reed Richards-level intellect to act. The idea of combining that intellect with that attitude is both funny and frightening, and Pak and Van Lente bring that across to the reader very well.

Khoi Pham is an artist to watch. His artwork is reminiscent of Leinil Yu – not a bad thing, given how Yu’s star has taken off in recent years – but distinctive enough that you won’t confuse the two. His pencils have the right combination of grit and grandeur for stories about a rough-and-tumble god like Hercules, and the action sequences are clear and full of energy. I can easily see Pham being stolen for something more high-profile in the future. I hope it’s not too soon, though, since he’s a – dare I say it? – incredible match for this book.

Much like Booster Gold over at DC, which I reviewed several weeks ago, The Incredible Hercules is a well-written book that’s overshadowed by titles starring more well-known characters. Both are a lot of fun, though, and well worth checking out.


Phil Southern said...

I couldn't agree more! Greg Pak, who worked his way up on rather low profile titles like "Warlock" has progressed to some really powerhouse stories over the past year. While he may not be a marquee, superstar name, he has something more important: genuine writing and plotting chops.

He has tied in Herc's mythical origins to the modern stories in interesting and fun ways, and it is accented fully by Khoi Pham's dynamic and clear art and story-telling.

Bravo, Jason, for this excellent review, and poo-poo on you for taking my idea to review it!

Rusty Baily said...

After Planet Hulk, Greg Pak can do NO WRONG in my eyes!!!

Vee ! said...

I actually picked up The Incredible Herc at someone else's recommendation, and I'm definitely not regretting it. It doesn't hurt that guys like Khoi Pham do a good job of representing a certain population.

Andy Mansell said...

Terrific review as always Jason, but what is the deal with that cover? Look at the arm of Hercules. UGH!!! Anatomy class? I say thee NAY!

Dustin Harbin said...

I will say that, while I love to see comics writers borrow from those original superheroes the Greek Gods, and it's especially fitting for Hercules to feature his own 12 labors, didn't Grant Morrison just do Superman? Seem less visionary somehow. I wonder if anyone is going to have a new idea at Marvel or DC soon?

Jason Wheatley said...

Vee, I actually did consider mentioning that Pham's Asian characters actually do look Asian, but in my haste to finish this review up, I left it out. Thanks for pointing it out!

Andy, I will not having you besmirching the work of Art Adams, who does the covers. It will not stand, sir.

And Dustin, as the saying goes, there are no new ideas, not even from Grant Morrison. I mean, saying that Morrison was smarter by, oh, retelling a story from ancient myth? Well, that doesn't hold much water, my friend. Not to mention that Herc is just flashing back to his labors or using them to put current events into perspective, not going through them in the present day. Plus, that Morrison Superman story came out a couple of years ago now, so it's not brand-new or anything.

In other words, don't poo-poo on our fun! :)

Dustin Harbin said...

Did you add a smiley-face to the end of that sentence?

Here's my first ever smiley-face, for you, Jason: :(

I'm just saying that it's sad that, regardless of all the great leaps in respect and (some would say) quality in comics, the most imaginative stories in superhero comics are revved up versions of old stories.

I'm sure that, um, "Incredible Hercules" is really good, though. :(

Cooper said...

I was kinda' peeved at first, thinking that Jeph and Ed taking over HULK was a bit like Waid and Ringo getting randomly kicked off of FF, with less of a public outcry.
However...HERC is just...a fun read. Greg Pak gets bonus points because, between him and Chris Gage, they're constantly making references to the old stuff that got me hooked on comics (GODZILLA, DEVIL DINOSAUR, SHOGUN WARRIORS, MICRONAUTS, ROM). Seeing the ol' Godzilla-chasing SHIELD helicarrier in the current issue made me weep tears of nostalgiac joy.
Oh...and the "new labors of Hercules" schtick has been done...Frank Tieri and Mark Texeira did it back in...2005, I think? And that was a good read, too (Yes, Dustin, I'm looking at you). And for the record, I still don't really get the broad appeal of the Morrison Supes stuff, or for that matter, the Miller Bats stuff. It's all vaguely unsettling, kinda' like what I'd expect from a Warren Ellis-penned POWER PACK title...

Rusty Baily said...

Andy, Andy, Andy....You have lost numerous ammounts of cool points with me after that comment! Brother Adams is another who CAN NEVER DO ANY WRONG IN MY EYES! I mean, comon! This is a COMIC book, not a PHOTOGRAPHY book! If you want perfect anatomy, pick up a Mens Fitness!
Don't mean to sound harsh, but you ARE talking about the guy who brought us Longshot! Need I say more?

Jason Wheatley said...

Yes, that was a smiley face. It's because I'm such a jovial fellow.