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

The Story: Brother, do you know the Truth about Herc?  Oh, ye of little faith…

The Review: For the last couple issues, I’ve concluded that even with the Fear Itself brand and obligatory tie-in issues, this title hasn’t really been affected all that much by the Event.  Pak-Van Lente have managed to execute a story arc that seems in keeping with their original agenda: let Herc savor the mortal life; give him a new residence, mission statement, and outfit; have him experience the ups of a loving crowd and the downs of a popular backlash.

As well as Pak-Van Lente have carried these points to fruition, there’s a rushed quality to it all that suggests Fear Itself actually has affected the title in a subtle fashion.  I noted last issue that since Herc has been mortal for only a short while (even shorter in context of the story), Hermes’ invitation to return to Olympus feels very premature.  The same feeling lingers through this issue’s major moments; they’re all good, appropriate scenes, but seem a couple arcs too early.

Kingpin prophetically commented that people love to build up an idol and tear him down, and while Herc now has firsthand experience of that, it doesn’t feel entirely genuine considering the Brooklynites’ behavior dances to the three magical tunes: the Norse serpent, witch-goddess Hecate, and son of Ares Kyknos.  Even so, that Herc’s unyielding courage proves affecting enough to sway the New Yorkers out of their panic-induced violence is heartwarming indeed.

Similarly, the big turning point in the issue involves Rhea drastically redefining her relationship with Herc, but since they’ve only known each other for about two days, their relationship hadn’t much of a definition at all beyond possibly “friends with benefits.”  The scene where she finally gives up her revolutionary ideals in favor of simple faith in our hero definitely builds well on her initial view of Herc merely as a useful symbol, but lacks the impact it’d have had we seen more interaction between the two or more of her rationalist behavior at work.

These very slight flaws aside, this arc has been mightily entertaining.  You don’t get much depth out of Kyknos and Hecate as villains, since they can only act according to their natures, but the epic scope of their powers and goals more than make up for their shallow characters.  And even though Basilisk, Man-Bull, and Griffin remain nothing more than snappy sidemen to Herc, it’ll be interesting to see if these (still technically) villains will stick by him in the future, especially now they’ve tasted the physical benefits of working with the former god of heroes.

Helene’s roller-coaster temperament early on made her unlikable, and here she turns almost completely unsympathetic.  We never learn how or why she turned to Kyknos in the first place, making her zealous loyalty to him (and thigh-highs) that much more inexplicable.  Her tearful reconciliation with her dad thus feels unearned; if not for Herc’s timely intervention, she’d be well on her way to committing patricide.

Edwards turns in great action despite gaps in the logical flow of events, such as Herc leaping towards Kyknos from behind, sword firmly in hand, and then suddenly losing the sword when Kyknos grabs him by the neck.  And I still don’t quite understand where the sword in Kyk’s chest comes from later, since Herc is behind him.  These positional snafus stand out all the more in an issue with otherwise impeccable art.

Conclusion: As massively fun as ever, though a little too hurried and underdeveloped to break the ceiling into greatness.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Considering Herc got put out of commission by a little girl and a pair of hedge shears a couple issues ago, it seems a little weird he doesn’t get so much as a paper cut from grabbing onto a sword swung by a grown woman.  Comics!