As a writer and a comic book fan, there is a list of characters that I would love to write. You often find yourself reading stories about these characters wishing that this time the writers see the character in the same kind of light that you do. Marvel’s Hercules is one of those characters for me.
Through the years, Hercules, has been mostly a second rate character thrown into the mix of other, more popular superhero books. Hercules also seems to be on the short list of many writers when putting together a superhero team, or anytime a bruiser type is needed for a story. Hercules did have a short-lived series of his own, Incredible Hercules, but for me the two limited series written and illustrated by Bob Layton were by far the best use of the character. So when I saw that Marvel was planning to give my favorite Greek demigod his own title again, I was very happy.
I was a little torn over the first issue, and here we are, with issue two out, and I still find myself precariously perched on the fence about this book. I’m happy with the art. Luke Ross and Emillio Laiso are doing a fine job there. I can’t say that the art fits the character 100%. I haven’t been unhappy with the storyline by Dan Abnett so far, but I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Something mysterious is happening that is driving out the last vestiges of the mythological community from our world. Not a unique plot, yet, but it does show that Hercules is trying to turn over a new leaf. Hercules finds himself unhappy with his current image of being a rough-and-tumble drunkard in the eyes of modern mortals. This is different, and has my attention, but at the same time I’m missing the old Hercules.
I like how Abnett slips the mythological creatures and characters into modern society. The old Theban oracle is a great example of this. Gilgamesh in my opinion adds a great mix to the story, and his relationship with Hercules is what has made the book for me so far. If this title is going to be successful, they need to concentrate more on that aspect of the immortals. If they make it a point to bring in more of the problems that immortals have in a modern world, I think this series could get a lot of mileage out of it. Most times that we see the gods in superhero stories, they are little more than just another superhero. They dress them differently, but in the end they still act like a superhero. If you think about it, someone that lives not hundreds, but thousands of years, trying to keep up with the explosion of modern human society should be taxing, if not just confusing.
I also see another potential concern with the book, and it’s possibly not even a problem (especially if you like these kinds of stories), but there is a certain type of narrative that writers seem to fixate on with certain characters. Take the Punisher for example, many writers fall back into his fighting the mob and street thugs. Sure the character was molded to do that, but I think we can all agree that The Punisher is at his best in less conventional stories. Frank Castle is most memorable when he is thrown into conflict against superheroes and supervillains. Many stories about Hercules have a similar problem. Unless Hercules is in a group surrounded by superheroes, we tend to see him in stories about mythological creatures, interacting with the gods. This to me doesn’t push the envelope enough for the character. Take the Bob Layton stories, for example. He took what we expected, and turned it on its ear by pitting Hercules not only into the future, but out in space. This simple change of scenery, and antagonists, made those stories great.
In the end, I’m still planning on reading Hercules to see where the story goes. There is a lot of potential here, and the stories so far have been entertaining. I’m hoping that they can take all of that rich backstory and mix it into a new modern version that pays homage to it, but in a fresh way.