Incredible Hercules #128

Background

Since the death of Zeus, Hera has taken over the Greek pantheon and reorganized it as a modern American corporation, the "Olympus Group." The Group's goals are shrounded in mystery, but seem to include restoring the Olympians to prominence and taking revenge on Hera's rivals and enemies. These goals have brought the Olympians into conflict with our hero, Hercules, and with Norman Osborn. And now, at a dockside warehouse, that conflict has become overt, as a three-way fight has broken out between the Olympus Group, the Dark Avengers, and Hercules and company (e.g. the goddess Athena and Hercules' brainy pal Amadeus Cho).

Story 'Gauntlet'

  Incredible Hercules #128
Summary: Spider-Man (Venom/Gargan)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Writer: Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak
Pencils: Dietrich Smith
Inker: Terry Pallot
Colorist: Raul Trevino

All but a handful of pages in this issue is taken up with the donnybrook between Hera's, Osborn's, and Hercules' squads. It's a pretty good fight, and recapping it would take as long as the issue itself. So I'll restrict myself to the key parts:

  • Hercules throws down with Venom, whom he initially takes for Spider-Man. "Never did I believe the sewage spewed forth by the Daily Bugle upon your honor, but if you willingly consort with villains such as Ares, then all the curses I laid at the feet of J. Jonah Jameson rightly belong to—" At this point, Venom tries to eat Hercules' fist. "You're... not Spider-Man, are you?" wonders Herc aloud.
  • Hercules gets rid of Venom by using him as a boxing glove while smacking the Sentry around. The sound effect here, "Dubbapow!", is priceless.
  • Amadeus takes time out from the battle to chat with his ex-girlfriend, Delphyne Gorgon, who is fighting for the Olympus Group. Cho can't believe Delphyne is fighting for Hera, but Delphyne corrects him on that point: it's also the case that she's fighting against Athena. Athena's history with the Gorgons doesn't reflect well on the goddess, and underscores that, for all of her noble reputation as the goddess of wisdom, Athena has behaved in the past with the same bloodthirstiness and callousness that is the Olympian hallmark. Cho begins to worry that maybe Athena isn't as safe or reliable a patron as she seems.

Ultimately, Hercules and company retreat under cover of a sinking cruise ship, which forces the Dark Avengers to leave the battle and provide rescue service. Osborn isn't keen about this, but he must keep up appearances, and this allows Hercules and his team to get away. Why does the cruise ship sink so conveniently? Because, at Amadeus' urging, Hercules punches a hole in the side.

Damn. And Amadeus thinks that Athena is cold, ruthless, and indifferent to the welfare of those who get caught up in her plans?

With the ship saved, Osborn and the team return to the battle, to find Hera willing to make a deal. She's willing to consult with Osborn on the "rollout" of the Olympus' Group's "Continuum" product, provided Osborn doesn't otherwise interfere with her. Osborn agrees, provided that she stops the rollout already underway.

But there is no rollout underway. It seems that someone at Olympus Group send word of this to Osborn, as well as word of Hera's whereabouts, which explains why the Dark Avengers crashed the Hera-Hercules tussle in the first place. Hera is extremely angry, as this means she's got a mole in her organization who's trying to look out for Hercules. She knows who that must be, and in the final two pages of the issue, we readers find out as well: Hera's feather-brained daughter Hebe, who just happens to be Hercules' wife.

Eh? Hercules has a wife? Not news to lovers of Greek mythology, but she's never appeared in the Marvel Universe before. An intriguing development...

General Comments

Sadly, not much good news to report. The art is sketchy and rushed, without the fine detail we saw as recently as last issue. Faces are just big empty ovals with minimal eyes, nostrils and mouths: panels are composed in such a way it's not clear where the eye is to be drawn or what exactly is happening. The story feels rushed also: it can be summed up as "Hercules fights the Dark Avengers, and then retreats." As I mentioned earlier, it's a good fight, but fights on their own aren't sufficient to make a good story, to me at least: they need to advance the story in some way. And there's no story advancement here.

To be fair there is a bit of character development, but not much. We learn that Athena is ruthless – just as ruthless as Amadeus "Helping the Hulk attack Manhattan is fun" Cho – and that Hebe isn't just a minor comic-relief character, but Hercules' wife, whom he hasn't acknowledged in forty-odd years of Marvel comics. Great... but that latter payoff is lost when the relationship is given away on the "cast of characters" sheet on the second page of the issue. Note to the editors: don't step on your writers by giving away their big reveals like that.

Overall Rating

I think The Incredible Hercules is one of Marvel's best books right now, but this is a poor showing, mostly interested in leveraging the popularity of the Dark Avengers to bring in new readers. Two webs.