So it comes to this, it seems. “The Incredible Hercules” is no more, with the apparent death of its titular character in its final issue. (I am pretty sure that Hercules would approve of the word “titular” in this review, even if he didn’t get its real meaning.) It’s a real shame, because “The Incredible Hercules” was an always entertaining mixture of heroism and comedy, the kind of book I looked forward to reading with each new issue.
On the bright side, we are getting a two-issue wrap-up in the form of “Hercules: Fall of an Avenger” with all the characters that Hercules and Amadeus Cho encountered over the run of the series. And really, this almost makes the loss of the main series worth it. From Amadeus’ opening, angry words towards Athena and her role in Hercules’s death, to the various speeches given by friends, there’s a lot to enjoy. It’s a mixture of brand-new stories and actual flashbacks to earlier comics, plus some fairly hilarious addendums to earlier stories. (The many loves of Hercules sequence gave me a nice chuckle, because it rang so true to the character himself.)
Ariel Olivetti’s art works for the most part, although there are some spots where it looks a little stiff and washed out. The script unfortunately also spotlights one of Olivetti’s big weaknesses; at the top of page 18, with Namora, Snowbird, Black Widow, and Alfyse standing next to one another, it’s impossible to miss that they all have the exact same face. Still, when Olivetti’s on,it results in a strong and powerful look to the art, and when he does draw backgrounds (which, unfortunately, seems to be only half of the time) they’re striking-looking.
“Hercules: Fall of an Avenger” uses its backup feature well, with Paul Tobin stepping in to script an “Agents of Atlas” story where Namora and Venus have to tell everyone connected to Hercules about his death. It’s a smart choice of characters, as they’re the only two to really have a connection to him, and it manages to take what is normally a minor details part of someone’s death and making it an actual story. It’s a nice diversion, even as it’s also a good look at the grieving process and how love isn’t always a positive emotion. Reilly Brown and Jason Paz do a nice job on the art; I like the young, slightly innocent look they give Venus, and the expressions on Namora’s face from time to time are worth a few chuckles. Some backup feature in comics these days seem tacked on, but here it makes the overall issue stronger.
I wish that we didn’t need the “Hercules: Fall of an Avenger” mini-series, but now that we’re at this point it’s a classy way to wrap up the series. Hopefully we’ll get at least some more Amadeus Cho down the line; until then, this will serve as a good reminder of how Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente made a strange concept work far better than it should have.