We’ve invited readers to share their choices for a Change of Pace on a couple of occasions. Lately, there have been two clear favorites in terms of the emails, direct messages, and carrier pigeons that I have received. While each one is a “Big Two” book, each one faces the problem of a more . . . boutique-sized readership. So, at the risk of people angrily tweeting that these aren’t proper changes of pace, I’m going to listen to the leadership and talk this week about one of these two books that I also happen to enjoy: Incredible Hercules and Secret Six. Hercules, you’re on.
Incredible Hercules: “Hercules” is doing okay in terms of readership (#67 with around 36,000 sales as of the mighty ICv2 Top 300 for August), but it’s still fairly surprising that a book this consistently entertaining isn’t doing better. You may recall that “Hercules” is a bit of an odd duck, having spun out of “World War Hulk” and taking over “Incredible Hulk”, along with the title’s numbering, as the adjectiveless “Hulk” began.
Taking over an established title is pretty sound reasoning, and has been applied many times in the past to great success (witness “Journey into Mystery” and the Superboy-Legion transition of old). It hasn’t fared extremely badly here either; the point is simply that this is a book that should have a wider audience. Why’s that? Well . . .
One: The writing. Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak have absolutely torn this up from the beginning. They struck a perfect chord of humor and action, then ran with it.
Two: Amadeus Cho (aka the new Mastermind Excello). The 7th Smartest Person in the World, and the #1 smart-ass, Cho could have been an absolutely insufferable brat in the wrong hands. With Van Lente and Pak, he’s comedy gold.
Three: Hercules. Oh yeah, the titular character. Marvel’s Herc has always been the good-time God, but he’s elevated in that respect here. He’s the wise-cracking, carousing powerhouse that serves as a perfect contrast to the less experienced (but possibly more mature) Cho.
Four: The situations. The smart kid and strong god find themselves in one untenable mess after another. Whether leading a “God Squad” against the deities of the Skrulls or fighting their way through Hades, the pair are constantly in ridiculous trouble. The most recent arc has the pair separated, but that’s redeemed by having Hercules (teamed with his father, Zeus, trapped in a child’s body) masquerade as Thor while Thor has to masquerade as Hercules. Hijinks ensue.
Five: The sound effects. Best sound effects in human history. I will not do them the disservice of reprinting them in text. Rest assured that this is wholly and completely true.
The fact is that “Hercules” is a good time each and every time. It’s got humor, it’s got a great buddy team at the center, and it often says interesting things about the ways in which we seek approval and the ways in which we build families apart from blood-relation. In the super-hero pantheon, that indeed makes it a Change of Pace.
Next Time: By request (first posited by Kyle Duvall) . . . Secret Six