By: Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente (writers), Neil Edwards (penciller), Scott Hanna (inker), Jesus Aburtov (colorist)

The Story: Uh-oh…does the incredible Hercules have a little boo-boo?

The Review: Despite being one of the most likable and collaborative heroes around, Hercules’ godlike powers don’t really allow him to mix up with his fellow Avengers and their usual foes too often.  But with his superhuman powers diminished and the title of his newest ongoing reduced simply to his nickname, Pak and Van Lente show that Herc’s going to have to rub shoulders with the rest of us mortals for a while.  There’s of course a lot of potential for that kind of storyline, and Pak-Van Lente have already begun mining it in this first issue.

Nothing starts the blood pumping for an action series like guns and fisticuffs on a speeding train.  Herc’s takes down the gang of Warhawks in neo-classical fashion, proving his power loss hasn’t affected his battle skills any.  Pak-Van Lente also smartly use the opportunity to give brief intros to his arsenal of weapons and demonstrate their surprising effectiveness against conventional arms (his arrow piercing through one thug’s Uzi into his shoulder is especially great).

There are plenty of other myth-based superheroes that don’t really figure their mythological roots into their stories except as a theme, so it’s really impressive how present Herc’s ancient Greek origins stay throughout the issue beyond his weapons.  The prayers of his worshippers seem to be guiding him toward a more Herculean challenge than disarming the Kingpin’s street mafia.  No doubt the two tie together somehow, but this issue remains determinedly vague on that front.

And Herc wouldn’t be the hero we love without his enthusiastic embrace of modern American culture.  His delight in liquor gives us a pretty good joke (seeing a can of beer offered at his altar: “Best.  Offering.  Ever.”) and gets him a temp job, which can only mean more hilarious beats to come.  And there are few heroes in either of the Big Two who are as sexually comfortable as Hercules—the cut from meeting Rhea to him sprawled naked in bed is possibly one of the best scene-jumps you’ll have read this year.

With Herc’s godly brethren out of the picture, Pak-Van Lente are obliged to give him a new supporting cast, this time of your good ol’ Greek-American immigrants.  It’s a great idea; it lets him work alongside his original countrymen and offers some approachable civilian material in addition to the heroics.  It does feel contrived that Herc saves Georgios and his daughter from mobsters and they just happen to have a room and job for him, but when you’re a hero destined for greatness, fate just falls into place for you, I guess.

Besides expertly drawing distinctively Greek facial features, Edwards does some excellent action sequences; they’re full of energy and his choice of POV always brings you right into the thick of it.  But occasionally his tendency to go for the most dynamic looking panel can make the flow of events confusing: in one panel, the Hobgoblin is striking down with his flaming sword from behind Hercules, and the very next panel he’s gone, without a clear follow-through to his attack.

Conclusion: An extremely strong start to a story that relegates Hercules to a humbler status in the world, but gives him an opportunity to bring himself back to glory in hopefully epic fashion.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Honestly, hearing “the people are fighting back” never inspires me with much confidence.  It makes me want to run away before a mob torches my house for misplaced reasons.

– Seeing the name Athena reminds you of home?  Seriously, Herc?  The name of the woman who unashamedly manipulated you according to her personal ambitions your whole life?

– Poor little beast indeed.  What did that calf ever do to anyone?