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

The Story: None of you guys are holding, right?  She’ll get seriously mad if you’re holding.

The Review: Sometimes crossover events can really hijack a title, forcing the storyline into a direction it never had any intention of following, or at least one that doesn’t suit the title’s tone or interests (e.g., Brightest Day and Birds of Prey).  Other times, the crossover can be so superfluous, it makes you wonder why they even bother to drag the title into it in the first place.

Anyone who’s worried having the Fear Itself brand stamped onto this issue means distracting spillover for a fledgling title that’s barely got its own story going yet, have no fear.  The one direct connection to Marvel’s summer Big Thing involves a breakout on the Raft (of less scale than the one that launched The New Avengers).  Other than that, the issue’s left to its own devices—evidence of the often pointlessly invasive nature of these big events, I suppose.

Pak-Van Lente continue building on the complications from previous issues; though the plight of Hercules’ followers remains a foreboding mystery, Kingpin’s foretelling about Herc’s newfound public support plays out to a tee.  His popularity quickly builds to a fever pitch, which he handles with characteristic breeziness (“Snuffles will taste my steel. Next!”) despite the predictably selfish concerns he faces (“First, you gotta get the socialists.”).

His new fans also include some designers, who have some new duds for ol’ Herc (how the heck does Kendra procure carbon-tech fabric—especially for a protest installation?).  The image update has been desperately needed; not only is the “sash ‘n’ diaper” look literally antiquated, it’s just no longer practical for a hero with mortal vulnerabilities.  I’m no fashionista, but the costume seems practical enough (“But what’s with the belt pouches?”), and the lion’s head adorning the shoulder of his sword sheath gives a nice mythic touch.

Herc gets to break in his spiffy threads in dramatic fashion when the ordinary bank robbery by the breakout prisoners soon turns into a very unsexy threeway battle with the Warhawks gang, led by Kyknos.  Still, Herc probably could’ve handled this development had the spectating crowd not turned against him upon seeing their hero apparently helping the criminals—though really, he just wants to keep the Warhawks from murdering them so he can maim them himself

By the end of the issue, Herc’s got himself a heaping spoonful of uh-oh: the fickle crowd, the Warhawks, and Hecate, goddess of witchcraft (and apparently a serious toker).  His only ally?  Raft escapee, Man-Bull.  Who only refers to himself in the third person (“Man-Bull like you too…In totally platonic way!”).  Herc’s definitely got his work cut out for him.

Edwards offers his usual solid art, and he really has to go all out considering the huge crowds he’s forced to draw this issue.  He also brings to life the many faces of Hercules, particularly on one page, where he draws Herc’s various bemused reactions to his adoring public’s demands.  Hanna’s finishes leave plenty of room for Aburtov’s mildly darker set of colors to shine through.

Conclusion: Not much progression on the overarching storyline, though you can’t deny Herc gets plenty to do in this issue.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – It seems rather careless for Herc to just drop his uncovered shield for any passersby to accidentally glance into Medusa’s face.