by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Greg Pak & Fred van Lenta, Art by Khoi Pham
Published: January 2008
Lets’ take a trip down memory lane and go back to those halcyon days when the Hulk led an alien armada against the heroes of the Marvel Universe. Following the close of the World War Hulk event, Marvel was in a strange situation. The Hulk was at his most popular level in ages, but the character was in SHIELD custody and needed to be put on ice for a while. Marvel did, however, try to cash in on the surge of interest in the character in several ways. We got a Son of Hulk series, a new red Hulk, a She-Hulks miniseries, and a series about the Hulk’s allies, the Warbound. But what to do with the Hulk’s ongoing title?
Naturally, they gave it to an unrelated Greek demigod.
Okay, maybe Hercules wasn’t really unrelated, but the ties between him and the Hulk were fairly tenuous. They had encountered one another a handful of times in their history, and Hercules sided with the Hulk during World War Hulk. But the team of Greg Pak, Fred van Lente, and Khoi Pham were apparently excited about the possibility to playing around with the character, and the Hulk’s rise in popularity made for a chance to get Hercules some much-needed attention. Thus, instead of The Incredible Hulk #112, we got The Incredible Hercules #112.
Just as a bit of trivia, it is perhaps fitting that the first issue of this series should start at #112, since the first issue of The Incredible Hulk, volume two started at #102, having itself taken over from the Tales to Astonish series. Turnabout is fair play, apparently.
This issue follows Hercules’ adventures shortly after the events of World War Hulk, but you don’t need to have read the preceding event to get a feel for this. Suffice it to say that Hercules chose the wrong side and gets taken into SHIELD custody along with Amadeus Cho, who had been a sort of quasi-kid sidekick to the Hulk (and joining the ranks of Rick Jones, Jim Wilson, and Queen Divine Justice – what is it about a giant rampaging monster that attracts rebellious teens so much?).
The high point of this issue is, surprisingly, a bunch of exposition. Hercules is brought before his half-brother Ares, now a member of the Avengers, and made to sit through a long rant about one of Herc’s trials in ancient Greek mythology, when he killed a bunch of birds Ares had created known as stymphalians. What makes this work so well is the fact that Hercules’ first words to his brother are, “This isn’t about the birds again, is it?” This makes it feel like the rant is something Herc has heard before, which makes the whole synopsis of this Greek myth much more palatable to the audience.
Ares’ discussion of the trials of Hercules is also a sign of things to come in this comic. While Marvel’s Hercules has very rarely been true to the original Greek mythology, that changes in this series. It seems that Pak and van Lente love their mythology, so expect lots of callbacks and Easter eggs.
Amadeus Cho helps Hercules escape from custody, but his reasoning is very flimsy. He gives some spiel about not wanting to help the military industrial complex by aiding SHIELD, but it comes off as very hollow. Then again, SHIELD at this time was directed by a guy who routinely threw the concepts of due process and judicial authority out the window, so maybe not trusting the guy who shot the Hulk into space in the first place was a smart move.
Amadeus was a sore point for me when I first read this series, because he’s kind of annoying at the start. He’s a brilliant kid who is arrogant and convinced that he’s got everything figured out. Originally, he struck me as a Wesley Crusher kind of character – basically Greg Pak’s Mary Sue. However, a re-read shows that while he comes off like this at first, he isn’t as smart as he thinks. This series is largely about Amadeus growing up and learning responsibility. It’s also very much about Hercules doing the same, which makes the two of them a perfect pair.
I’m a huge Hulk fan, so it takes a very good story to get me over the fact that Hercules hijacked the Hulk’s series. While The Incredible Hercules #112 isn’t quite that level of awesome, it plants some great seeds which come to fruition later on in the series. In short, this is a very good comic that is well worth hunting down.