Assault on New Olympus Prologue #1
Writers: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente
Artist: Rodney Buchemi
Colors: Guillem Mari
Letters: Simon Bowland
“Godmarked, Part 1: The Oldest One”
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Cover artist: Adi Granov
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Those who have followed plotlines from Incredible Hercules and Agents of Atlas (as well as Mighty Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man, to a lesser extent) will no doubt enjoy this one-shot. It features the same strong sense of personality and adventure that made those titles such entertaining reads as of late. However, I’m at a loss to understand why these two stories were packaged in this standalone comic book, sans a connecting title, without any clear indication of its connection to those ongoing plotlines. Marvel has done a poor job of marketing this one-shot, and by extension, the new storyline that’s about to unfold in Incredible Hercules (as well as the addition of “Agents of Atlas” as a backup feature). This reads a bit like it was meant to be an Incredible Hercules Annual, which is probably what it should have been, if not just a regular issue of the series.
Hercules: As the blurb at the end of the story indicates, this was a set-up for a new story arc that’s about to debut in Incredible Hercules, and “Assault on New Olympus” basically promises to pit super-heroes against a nihilist goddess and, I would imagine, a cosmic killer of gods. The plot in and of itself is fairly generic in tone, but the interplay among the protagonists is the real draw here. The Herc/Spidey fight scene, though pointless, was a lot of fun, and Amadeus Cho, even when he’s relegated to the background, shines as a thoroughly entertaining and cleverly written character when in the hands of these writers. I wasn’t terribly enamored of Hebe, Herc’s wife from Greek myth, when she was first introduced in the Herc title itself, but Pak and Van Lente really build her up as a character in this issue. I have a hunch that in order to keep Herc footloose and fancy-free, Hebe won’t be a part of the supporting cast in the long term, but she’s well realized and thoroughly likeable in this comic book.
Rodney Buchemi boasts what seems to be a fairly standard super-hero style at times, but his bright, wide-eyed figures are a perfect match for the big personalities and the playful tone of the script. I also really appreciated how he makes the divine flashbacks and other deity-driven scenes seem truly larger than life. Aphrodite is vamped up pretty gratuitously in an early scene, but it works in the context of the plot and her character.
Ultimately, as much as I enjoy these characters and the script, this story as something of a let-down. It’s mostly about setting up the plot, and the Spidey sequences are superfluous and feel forced (though entertaining). The only thing that’s really accomplished is the resolution of the interpersonal conflict between Herc and Hebe. Furthermore, bringing the New Avengers into the plot by the end of the book took me out of the story. Instead of feeling like a logical teamup, it comes off as a marketing ploy — and a fairly obvious one at that.
Agents of Atlas: I found this story to be incredibly frustrating. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Jeff Parker’s work on Agents of Atlas, but I felt like I was left out of the loop. I haven’t read X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas yet (it’s on order at my local comic shop), so I’d missed a key chapter in this story, which stems from Venus and how Aphrodite perceives her as a threat. Another confusing element is that the main Herc story takes place before the X-Men/Agents series, while this backup tale takes place after it.
The story — about the Agents’ efforts to destroy a dark god who’s using Venus to feed on humans — features the same sort of action and fun character interplay that made the Agents series such a good read, but the shorter length of this backup story felt like a tease rather than a satisfying reading experience.
Hardman’s art is incredibly lovely, and this effort is even stronger than those he’s contributed in the past. I love the somewhat loose, Michael Lark-esque approach to these unusual characters, and he conveys the immensity of the Cthulhu-like sea god incredibly well. What really make the linework shine, though, are the haunting colors with which Elizabeth Breitweiser adorns it. The only visual disappointment to be found in the Agents backup feature is the font/style that Orzechowski has devised to convey the voice of the monster, as it was a bit difficult to read at times.
While Adi Granov’s cover image featuring Hercules and Spider-Man is attractive, it’s not in keeping with the tone of the storytelling within. While the overall implications of the plot are in the life-and-death vein, generally, there’s a lighter atmosphere to the Herc/Cho story that’s just meant to be fun. Granov’s photorealistic style, with its darker bent, just isn’t a good match for this subject matter. Furthermore, the cover design is awkward and ineffective, and it’s complete inconsistent with any other approach Marvel is employing at the moment, making it less likely Marvel fans will be drawn to it.
I’m guessing this one-shot was designed to bolster the sales and profile of Incredible Hercules, but instead, poor marketing and execution may end up actually hindering those efforts. I hope that doesn’t prove to be the case, as Pak and Van Lente have done some solid work on the underdog, unlikely Marvel title for some time now. 6/10
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