By Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (writers), Ryan Stegman (artist), Terry Pallot (inker), Raul Trevino & Chris Sotomayor (colorists)

Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, on the off chance that you’re reading my review of your comic book right now, please know that I forgive you for those incredibly shitty “Dark Reign” tie-in issues; and that after this issue in particular I now hold special places for you both in my heart.  After taking a break from the title for a few months, I have returned to Hercules with this issue to find that not only is it every bit as funny as I remembered, it’s even funnier.

The best punchline of this issue, and easily the entire series to date, comes early on as Hercules is battling the reflection of his mortal self in Hell.  I won’t spoil the surprise for you, except to say that if, like me, you’ve ever groaned and wondered why all the gods in the Marvel Universe talk like they’re starring in a high school Shakespeare production, then this issue was written for you. Overall this is a very solid, very enjoyable issue; and I was especially pleased that I could pick this up after taking a break from reading it and still follow what was happening.  And that’s really the key to this comic’s success, I think it has less to do with any kind of a plot as much as it is the joy we get from watching Marvel’s ultimate frat guy punch and womanize his way through one merry adventure after another with the shit-eating grin and reckless abandon we’ve come to love in the Lion of Olympus. That’s all there is to it, and Pak and Van Lente are right to stick to this formula as closely as possible.

I enjoyed the bold lines and expressive qualities of Stegman’s art but felt it was often overpowered by Pallot’s inks. Fortunately, the dynamic colors of Trevino and Sotomayor compensate for this and make the finished pages absolutely sparkle. With all the melodramatic doom and gloom running rampant throughout Marvel’s “Dark Reign” snorefest, it’s a real treat to come across that occasional comic that wants nothing more than to laugh loudly at it all and entertain. This is one of those comics, so be sure to check it out.

Grade:  B+

-Tony Rakittke