It's the final chapter of the Incredible Hercules, as Herc takes on the Chaos King in the fight to end all fights! But it all feels a little hollow somehow...
Credits & Solicit Info:
Chaos War #5(of 5)
'The End Is Here'
Written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Artwork by Koi Pham, Thomas Palmer and Sunny Gho
Chaos War is the culmination of the little book that could, Incredible Hercules. Originally intended to just be a 4-issue storyline in the Incredible Hulk during the aftermath of World War Hulk, the adventures of Hercules and Amadeus Cho lasted a lot longer than anyone expected, 20 or so issues of Incredible Hercules, plus 2 minis, even surviving the death of the main character! From the very start, the book has been leading to this event, with the Goddess Athena manipulating events and causing the Japanese God Mikaboshi to become the nightmarish Chaos King, and attempt to turn the universe into a void of nothingness. The world is quite literally in Chaos, most of the world is in a magical coma, the dead are walking the Earth, and it's left to only a few mythological heroes to fight the Chaos King.
This sounds like the perfect ending for the kind of book Incredible Hercules was and is, an over-the-top book, with larger-than-life characters and epic threats, but throughout this whole mini, I've felt that in Chaos War, things got too big to be really effective.
While it's only right to expect an escalation, the direness of the threat faced by Herc and his God Squad is so large that it almost becomes ridiculous, and it's so metaphysical and beyond the realms of expectation that I don't particularly care. It's not rooted in anything I recognise, the Universe being turned into an empty void is so big it's meaningless to me. It's left this entire series feeling empty, and devoid of what made the Incredible Hercules so special. It's not quite on the level of Hickman's SHIELD in terms of hollowness, but it was too close for comfort. Apologies if this complaint makes no sense to you, but perhaps, like a threat of multiversal levels as depicted here, it's hard to put into words. I must say that Koi Pham did a bang-up job of trying to put it into pictures at least, this is his best work since he kicked-off Incredible Hercules way back when, with none of the rushed look of his Mighty Avengers work, he finally seems to be fulfilling his 'Young Guns' promise.
Thankfully, this issue brings things back down to earth and a more manageable level, as the final battle comes back to one of the recurring themes of Incredible Hercules, Brain Versus Brawn, and how our heroes, Hercules and Amadeus Cho represent each, so while the the bulk of the issue is a plus-size fight between Hercules and the Chaos King, it's still Amadeus' intelligence that largely saves the day, finding a way to trick Mikaboshi and defeat him. It's admirable how Pak and Van Lente have created a hero who uses his mind far more than his might, no matter how smart Tony Stark and Peter Parker are, they still solve most of their problems by hitting things, but Amadeus is different.
The series has always been about these two heroes, and how they've changed each other for the better, how Hercules stopped Amadeus from possibly becoming a villain (this is a kid who sided with the Hulk when he tried to take over the world, and then destroyed a SHIELD heli-carrier, there was a distinct possibility he could have been a baddy, you may have forgotten) and how Amadeus probably taught Hercules about humility and humanity, who knows, maybe the old Herc would have accepted Athena's offer of reshaping the world in his own image rather than just return to normal?
But as this is an superhero event comic, things aren't totally back to normal. There has to be an 'Aftermath' and as such, some of the dead heroes are back to life, including Alpha Flight (apart from Puck, who as we all know is the King Of Hell), cue DC fans claiming this is just a rip-off of Blackest Night and how Marvel is the House of NO Ideas LOLOL!. And most importantly of all, Hercules is now mortal, with no powers at all. This is a good step I feel, as I tried and failed to articulate, when Pak and Van Lente got too god-sized, I felt the story lost it's centre, but now that Hercules is powerless, the new ongoing 'Herc' series will almost certainly be much closer to the Incredible Hercules I want to read, even if he is no longer literally Incredible.
Overall, Chaos War was a sort of limp ending to one of the best stories Marvel have had in the last few years, it lost some of the things that made Incredible Hercules special, such as the humour, sacrificed in favour of a story that was just too big, but it ended well, and the future of Hercules seems bright.
Review by: Niam Suggitt