A comic book packed with gods fighting other gods, laden with sound effects such as “HUUMBLLD,” “MYOOONRRR,” and “BUGCRACK,” could only be made better if it were extra-sized. This comic is all that, hold the bag of chips.
The basic premise behind this story — the “Chaos War” event itself — is that Amatsu-Mikaboshi, King Chaos, has chosen to strike out against the Marvel Universe, rendering it back into the nothingness that was once Mikaboshi. That’s right, when there was nothing, it was Amatsu-Mikaboshi. Then things happened (creationism, Big Bang, whatever) and Mikaboshi became less than he once was. Now he wants to return to what once was. Except Hercules has returned imbued with more power than he can control, let alone imagine. Hercules’ power is exponential from what he once knew and catches him so by surprise that he shatters the very ground he walks on.
This story has a kinship of some kind with “Secret Wars” or, perhaps more correctly, “Secret Wars II” (except with less jumpsuit-wearing astonishingly-powered individuals) in that an omnipotence has challenged the heroes and threatens their very existence lest they rally against the unknown. Or maybe not. This story packs a lot into a single issue, but Van Lente and Pak temper the onslaught with humor, sometimes at Hercules’ expense or through subtleties like the outrageous sound effects produced when these gods clash.
Khoi Pham’s work he is quite unlike anything I have grown accustomed to expecting from Pham. The storytelling is still straight-forward and powered by heroism, but the finish on the figures is more like Leinil Yu’s work on “Superman: Birthright” than it is like Khoi Pham’s work on “Mighty Avengers.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it demonstrates Pham’s ability to grow and change. The style is also fitting for the story, as the figures themselves seem less tangible and more ethereal. It is a perfectly suited change to match the change in powers, abilities, and perception from Hercules. Sunny Gho plays with the finish of the pages, giving the final piece a diluted watercolor appearance. It’s not the most striking crossover story in recent history, but it is certainly distinctive from others of this era. My biggest gripe, however, is that Pham’s Mikaboshi isn’t as visually striking as the character was drawn by Rafael Sandoval, but that’s a minor quibble considering the vastness of the tale Pham is delivering in between the covers here.
The inside page lists the nineteen – yes nineteen! – books that contribute to the story of “Chaos War” despite the fact that the main series itself is five issues. That seems excessive to me, especially given that a number of the supplemental titles are stretched over two and three issues. While I am tempted to ignore those pieces, a story that spawns “Dead Avengers,” “God Squad,” and “Alpha Flight” specials can’t be considered completely bad.
This is a romp through the Marvel Universe that promises to change things. It promises to deliver an exciting story. It promises to break new ground as King Chaos pits god against god, forcing new alliances and treatises to be enacted. It promises a great deal, and based on the first issue, it looks like “Chaos War” will be delivering on a regular basis.