A limited series getting cancelled mid-stream isn’t a regular occurrence in comics, but it does happen. Sometimes the book just stops, never to return, in books like “The Blue Lily” and “Sonic Disruptors.” Other times it gets a truncated conclusion, like this year’s “The Great Ten” getting suddenly downgraded from ten issues to nine. Now, chances are good that it’s just a misprint on the cover and “Chaos War” (solicited for five issues) has not really been downgraded to just four issues. But, considering the general disappointment of “Chaos War” in general, it would be just about par for the course.
It’s a shame, because the just over two years of “Incredible Hercules” issues from Marvel was a high point for the company; Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente told stories that were a perfect mix of humor, adventure, and drama, and even with a round-robin stable of artists it was a fine looking book to boot. Now that we’re nearing the conclusion of “Chaos War,” though, it’s hard to see most of the greatness that existed in that earlier series.
A book involving Hercules and the other pantheons of gods fighting off the Chaos King should have been a lot of fun, but this is just a mish-mash. We’re getting big fight scenes, but there’s a lack of the wit and clever twists that I’m used to from these writers. It probably doesn’t help matters that the Chaos King isn’t a terribly exciting villain, but this goes a step further away from the norm. It’s hard to care about any of the characters involved here, even Amadeus Cho and Hercules, normally a winning combination. The characters are just going through the motions, and it unfortunately shows.
It doesn’t help that Khoi Pham and Thomas Palmer’s art is looking equally uninspired here. Pham’s work in the past has felt more lively, but between Amadeus’s pinched and prematurely aged face (seriously, he looks like a 60-year old alcoholic midget) and the legion of grimacing villains, it’s falling equally flat. There’s no pep or zing to any of the art here, and the characters seem so unenergetic it’s startling.
When “Incredible Hercules” was initially canceled and replaced with a series of mini-series (“Hercules: Fall of an Avenger,” “The Heroic Age: Prince of Power,” and “Chaos War”) it seemed like a good enough way to continue on the book even in the face of struggling sales. Now, though? It’s a sad way to (presumably) see Hercules’s series come to a close. Everyone deserves better than this.