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The Knight's Shelf: Herc #1

Written by Linwood Earl Knight on Monday, April 18 2011 and posted in Reviews

The Adventures of Hercules continues with Hercules taking it into the streets of Brooklyn, but is Hercules truly divorced from his days as God?

Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:

Herc #1

Writers: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Neil Edwards
Scott Hanna
Jesus Aburtov
: Simon Bowland
Production: Taylor Esposito
Editor: John Denning

It's Hercules like you've never seen him before as he sets out on an action-packed epic of monumental proportions that will keep fans on the edge of their seats and demanding more! Discover what happens when the Earth's most formidable warrior is forced to cut a swath of destruction through the very core of the Marvel Universe in the all-new, all ruthless Herc #1 & 2 - Double Shiping This April.


(Note: I know this Review is late, but I rather have it published than have a week being completely skipped. Expect another Review before the Comic Week is out.)

After saving the Universe from living embodiment of Chaos, what other possible story could you tell about the hero of that tale? A story that puts said hero in a situation that he's never been in before.

As this reviewer learns more and more about the Comic Book Industry works, one of the alarming creative trends that stands out is the seemingly unhealthy obsession by Marvel and DC with "what is." How did things get like this, you ask? When the Industry crashed in the mid 1990's, both companies were left searching for the crowd that would still get their weekly fix no matter what happened, and when the powers that be deemed the dust to finally be settled, they realize that the crowd that still bought comics was the crowd that was adverse to any substantial or lasting change of any kind. It was this, along with many other more complex factors that have set the creative tone of what Marvel and DC mostly publish today, something that has left many readers feeling increasingly disenfranchised each passing week. Despite all of this, there are still a number of creators that have embraced "what could be", and it is that focus that has given the characters in those series a new lease on life, with Hercules being one of the main benefactors of that touch.

Like Thor, Marvel created its own version of Hercules within the first 5 years of what would become their world famous Marvel Universe, facing his fellow mythological transplant in his first adventure back in 1965. From there, Hercules would become a fixture in Marvel's lore for many years, but would never get the spotlight that comes from starring in his own ongoing series, and wouldn't get a limited series until 2005. Finally, in December 2007 Marvel would rebrand Hulk's title at the time to launch "The Incredible Hercules", a title that would rapidly gain a devoted following, due to its high quality of work. While the art was almost always excellent, iHerc (the nickname the community gave the title) would become known for its excellent writing. Not only was the dialogue excellent, but the plots were complex, the tone was perfectly balanced between humor and drama, and the characterization was undoubtedly some of the best that the Big 2 had to offer, as the adventures had Hercules grow beyond the buffoonish joke he had become known for. It is also due to that fact that I looked forward to the story continuing, despite the fact that Chaos War was very much a disappointment, a testament to what happens when you build loyalty through good work. Did Herc #1 prove that my loyalty wasn't misplaced? I would say yes, despite a few small mishaps.

With the ending of Chaos War, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente left Hercules in quite an interesting situation. What was the situation you might ask? Well, did you know that for the Hundreds of Years that Hercules has had stories told, there has never been a popular interpretation where he has been depicted as a fully mortal human being? With a pretty clean slate to work from (not to mention new ground), the writers get started right away in introducing the main character in what will probably go down as one of the best pieces of exposition of the year. The opening scenes, along with one of the later ones take the reader through all of the equipment that Herc went to battle with in the past, and those scenes are accompanied by deftly written descriptions backed with Ancient Greek Art. Not only do we get an excellent view of what Hercules will be carrying into battle, but the notion of Hercules being an extremely formidable opponent, despite willingly casting away his godhood to save the Universe. If there was ever a way to make exposition not seem superfluous, this book provides a great example.

Not to be left completely alone, the strong exposition of Hercules abilities is also backed by excellent dialogue, which accompanies another big positive with the writing in this Issue, which are the well added layers that accompany the story itself. Not content to just tell a standard superhero story, the writers do an excellent job of integrating a piece of Brooklyn Politics, and using that integration to give us a set of characters that could become excellent supporting pieces of Hercules new mortal life. Beyond that, they do their best work in the voices that Hercules hears in his head, which establishes that his story with godhood is most definitely not over, and continues the "Ascended Superhero" Theme that has been touched upon in Incredible Hercules. Overall, it is those layers that made me feel that this book has a chance to meet the standards that were set by its predecessors.

As I was taking in this book, one of the things that became very apparent to this reviewer is the consistent excellent art that has accompanied this storyline for the past 3 and ½ years. In fact, until I retook in the issue again to write this review that I realized how excellent the art is, due to the expectations that have been formed about the art of this story. While Herc #1 won't stand out due to lack of flashy splash pages depicting "awesome moments", the art does it job in spectacular fashion, as the characters and backgrounds are depictated in spectacular fashion, as you can see the effort every single panel is given. Characters Emote Amazingly, Backgrounds help to give the surroundings life, and it's all beautifully drawn. What more could anyone ask for?

Despite the many positives that "Herc" #1 has in its writing and art, there are a couple of negatives that this reviewer really can't ignore (and while the lack of Amadeus Cho is a bit saddening, it isn't one of those negatives), negatives which go quite well together. One of the things that the reader may notice is that the book ends just as things were heating up action wise, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but with this being a first Issue with a $3.99 Price Tag, I would've loved to have seen more story in this book, which brings me to the biggest issue with this book, and that's the "Wiki-Padding" that has become a practice with Marvel #1's. Now this doesn't mean that this reviewer is against putting in these "Saga Recaps" or whatever else they're called, because it is understandable that you want to make sure new readers have the tools they need to understand and enjoy this book. However, I am still not a fan of Marvel charging an extra dollar for something that someone could find on Wikipedia (hence the term "Wiki-Padding"), and it would not be surprising if potential customers got buyer's remorse at seeing the price on this book. Of course, it should be noted that Issue #2 onwards will sport a price point of $2.99, but even with that out there, this reviewer still feels that Marvel should let these "Non-Franchise #1's", be seen as a value with either extra story pages, or let these "Saga Recaps" be for free. Either decision would give Marvel a win the PR Column, which is always needed.

When everything is said and done, "Herc #1" comes out looking like a winner on almost any given measurement. Old Fans will enjoy the evolved character that Hercules has become, and New Fans will get a small glimpse as to why this storyline was a fan-favorite for nearly 3 years running. Here's to hoping that this comic will add another 3 years (at least) to that total.

The Verdict

Story/Writing ***1/2: The story definitely grips you, and gives you a lot to digest, despite its seemingly brief dialogue. It makes you wish there were more of it.

Art ****1/2: The Art Team continues to do what it usually does and it adds up to a book that is very pleasing to look at.

Accessibility ****1/4: The story gives you almost everything that you need to jump right in and enjoy it on its own. Old readers may have a few questions with some of the details, and new readers may balk at the price though.

Final Judgment: ***3/4 (Great)

The Knight's Shelf: Herc #1

The Knight's Shelf: Herc #1

The Knight's Shelf: Herc #1

The Knight's Shelf: Herc #1

The Knight's Shelf: Herc #1

The Knight's Shelf: Herc #1

Review by: Linwood Earl Knight

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