How do you hobble a demi-god? Marvel manages it by slapping this first issue with a whopping $3.99 price tag. Yes, there are eight pages in the back recapping Hercules’ long comics career, but none of it is necessary to enjoy Herc #1. Everything a reader needs is on the opening page – the legendary hero has lost his Olympian power but strives to do good with his still-massive strength and magic arsenal. The end, begin story.
I can see plenty of potential readers being put off by having to pay nearly $4 for, really, 22 pages of story. Those who do buy will get a breezy tale of a guy with a lust for life trying to make his way in the world. ‘Gods of Brooklyn’ opens with a fun battle on a subway train with members of the Warhawk gang, who have no idea who they’re up against. As Hercules takes on the thugs, we’re given a close-up of his weapons and told of their origins. And his advantages don’t just include the likes of the shield of Perseus and Sword of Peleus, he also has his very own martial art, Pankration, invented with Theseus.
The rest of the issue sees Hercules finding a suitable job with a very nice Greek family, and trying not to be distracted by newfound worshippers whose prayers reach him despite his no longer being a deity.There’s also a splendid tussle with the latest Hobgoblin, on loan from the Amazing Spider-Man, and a killer cliffhanger.
Writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s script is assured entertainment. Having handled Hercules in various titles over the past few years, they really know their guy, and he’s good company (mind, that being the case, I wonder why his Avengers buddies don’t appear here and offer him accommodation). The new direction, with Hercules on the tough streets of New York City, is something we’ve not seen previously. So far, I’m enjoying it. And thankfully no one calls him Herc – God knows why the book was given such an ugly title.
Penciller Neil Edwards produces the best work I’ve seen from him here. Hercules is big, powerful, sexy and the consummate scrapper. New York and its residents look right and the fight scenes work. My favourite page is a superb action splash featuring Hobgoblin – it’s a thrillingly dynamic piece. Credit, too, to inker Scott Hanna, colourist Jesus Aburtov and letterer Simon Bowland, who all help the book look so good. And Carlo Pagulayan’s cover is stunning.
I don’t know how long this comic will last, but I’ll be sticking around. It’s different enough from Hercules’ previous comic book forays, and Marvel’s other ‘street level heroes’, to merit a chance.