The Incredible Hercules #134
Written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Art by Reilly Brown and Nelson DeCastro
Colors by Guillem Mari
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Marvel Comics
Published, September 10th, 2009
Review by David Pepose
The Incredible Thorcules? The Mighty Hercuthor? However you want to spin this cross-theology-dressing epic, this issue of The Incredible Hercules has a comedic spirit that I haven't seen in this book in months.
When I first saw this book's preview, I was ready to leave it on the shelf -- thankfully, though, I changed my mind but quick once I got a chance to read through the whole thing. Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente's story starts off a bit slow -- an awkward transition from the last issue, which starts off standard, has a brief twist, and then goes right back to where it started -- but the humor really picks up in the second two-thirds of the book.
Hercules' gregarious nature is what carries this book, as he rises to the challenge of impersonating the Norse God of Thunder: when the beautiful Dark Elf Queen Alfyse challenges the ruse, saying that his distinctive demeanor and intact hammer are suspicious, Herc simply grins. "Of course. I am Thor," he says. "And I assure you, my...hammer works just fine." Never change, Hercules. It's this sort of humor that reigns for the rest of the issue, culminating in a brilliant final page.
That said, artist Reilly Brown still isn't quite hooking me on his work. Certain panels, like Herc's ear-to-ear grin when he breaks the Dark Elf forge, look great, but I don't think he's selling the emotions well enough with some of his other characters. He certainly makes an interesting bridge between cartoony and realistic style -- like some sort of weird artistic hybrid of John Byrne and Barry Kitson, with a little anime-influenced sensibilities -- but I think his polish or his sense of comedy isn't quite there yet. But in Brown's defense, his composition is generally quite strong, and is certainly has the most clarity of any Herc artist since Clayton Brown.
Starting slow but picking up with a hilarious second and third act, this isn't necessarily a textbook example of a "great" issue of Incredible Hercules, but it's certainly taking the bizarre high concept of Thor and Hercules switching identities, and plays it to the hilt. It's the sort of silliness -- especially that which plays to sci-fi and fantasy geeks -- that is so refreshing in the all-too-dark, grim 'n gritty stories of mainstream comics. What would Thor do? Probably not what Pak and Van Lente prescribe -- but warts and all, this is one bad influence I'm happy to follow.