Incredible Hercules #126 (Marvel Comics)
by Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak, Rodney Buchemi & Greg Adams/Pak & Takeshi Miyazawa
Who would have thought that an ongoing title featuring Marvel’s incarnation of Hercules would not only last well into a second year but would garner solid sales and critical acclaim? Writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente have done an amazing job of breathing new life into the title character, balancing both his history in the Marvel Universe with ancient Greek myths. But more than that, they’ve managed to transform the blowhard character into someone the audience can cheer for, but they’ve done so without completely undoing what’s come before them. The origin story that serves as this issue’s main feature is immersed in the mythic side of the character, obviously, but the script does a great job of capturing that classic feel with a more grounded tone. The art by Buchemi is absolutely lovely, and the historical and mythic qualities are reinforces by the muted colors and the lettering.
As a bonus in the backup feature, writer Greg Pak re-teams with the artist he worked with on the very first Amadeus Cho story from Amazing Fantasy v.2 #15 a few years ago. The plot isn’t one that was screaming out to be told — Cho seeks out his pet coyote, which was replaced by a Skrull infiltrator — but it’s a treat to see Cho in the spotlight and looking appropriately youthful, thanks to Miyazawa’s art. This short story will be a must for fans of Amadeus Cho, who merits the spotlight this series and Mighty Avengers has afforded him as of late. 8/10
Solomon Grundy #1 (DC Comics)
by Scott Kolins
I realize that the goal was to limit this series to seven issues, one for each “day” of Solomon Grundy’s nursery-rhyme week. In reality, it’s an eight-issue series, as January’s Faces of Evil: Solomon Grundy #1 is essential reading for this story. As a result, Kolins and DC run the risk of losing readers with this inaccessible first issue. Setting that concern aside, though, I must admit I was entertained. Kolins seems to be taking his readers on a tour of the DC Universe. I love the diverse array of characters that turn up in this issue, and the darker edge that serves as the foundation of the series makes a nice balance with the colorful super-hero elements. A snippet of the script indicates there’s a link between this story and the upcoming Blackest Night event, but the script doesn’t get all caught up with the Lanterns-of-Many-Colors connection or anything. Ultimately, what makes this story interesting is the character study of Cyrus Gold, a reprehensible murderer who’s nevertheless depicted as a human being.
The main appeal of this limited series, of course, is the artwork. Kolins is clearly having fun here. There’s so much energy in the supernatural elements and so much crisp detail. His art is appropriately dark, so when brighter elements (such as the Golden Age Green Lantern’s emerald energy) appear, they really pop off the page. Kolins offers a lovely vision of an ancient battle between an early incarnation of the Spectre and Lucifer in the opening pages, but the strongest visuals in the book come at the end. I don’t want to spoil the revelation on the final page, but suffice it say that Kolins offers a delicious interpretation of a classic DC villain. 7/10
Spider-Man & the Human Torch in… Bahia de los Muertos! #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Tom Beland & Juan Doe
Tom (True Story Swear to God) Beland turns his attention to the Marvel Universe once again, and it’s no surprise, given the success of his first Puerto Rico-based super-hero story, Fantastic Four: Isla de la Muerte! #1. Despite the fact Spidey gets top billing, this is really a Human Torch story, about Johnny Storm’s insecurities and his need to prove himself in the eyes of the man he’s come to view as a father figure. It’s a great idea for the character-driven aspect of the story, and Beland provides logical reasons for these two New York-based heroes to be in Puerto Rico. As he did in the first Puerto Rico comic, Beland provides incorporates some history and culture into the story, though those elements are such a downer that they lacked the fun and flair that we found in his FF comic. I did enjoy his incorporation of an FF villain into this story, especially since he wasn’t in the typical role of the antagonist.
Juan Doe’s art is full of energy, but I found the art to be murky and difficult to discern at times, especially when the Luminestro creature was involved in the action. I never got a clear picture of what the creature looked like. The script tells the audience that it’s made up in part of water, but its form remains vague throughout the comic. Furthermore, the colors are far too dark, especially for the generally upbeat energy inherent when the two title characters get together. 6/10
Whatmen one-shot (IDW Publishing)
by Scott Lobdell & Alejandro Figueroa
It seems IDW Publishing has beaten comicdom gossip columnist/occasional writer Rich Johnston to the punch with last week’s release of this Watchmen spoof. I’d already pre-ordered Johnston’s Watchmensch, but I opted to check this spoof as well. It’s a combination of low-brow jokes, on-the-mark criticism of the original work and super-compressed synopsis of Moore’s 1986 story. It’s been a while since I’d reread Watchmen, but it’s such a strong work that those familiar with the material really don’t need a refresher in order to appreciate this send-up. Those who’ve only seen the movie might want to steer clear of it, though, as it makes specific references to elements that have been removed for the flick. Artist Alejandro Figueroa does an impressive job of mimicking the style of Dave Gibbons; there are panels in this book that might lead one to believe Gibbons actually participated in this lampooning effort.
Ultimately, the satire and humor never rise above the level of typical super-hero spoofs like those seen in the past in the pages of titles such as Mad Magazine or Marvel’s What The–?. It’s cute and goofy, but it’s not terribly cerebral or avant garde either. Whatmen serves only as the briefest of diversions, but not an unpleasant one. 6/10