For the tail end of the summer, “Incredible Hercules” is bi-weekly, every other issue spotlighting one half of the Hercules/Amadeus Cho duo that’s made the book so popular. The two had an acrimonious split in issue 131 and, now, Cho is free of the immature god and off to find out who’s responsible for killing his parents and if his sister is actually alive.
While Hercules is a well-known character, Amadeus Cho is a relative newcomer to the Marvel universe (and its readers) and Fred Van Lente and Greg Park approach this solo issue with that in mind, providing a full history of Amadeus in a rather clever way: by having him read a book about the hero’s journey. As he reads it, he reflects on his history and how it reflects the ‘hero’s journey’ described. It’s very revealing, both Amadeus’ past, but also his character. To begin with, he’s the sort of guy who reads a book about the ‘hero’s journey’ and automatically thinks of himself. But, I suppose he’s got a right to be a little arrogant – he is, after all, the seventh smartest person in the world (as the very funny recap page tells us.)
This method of providing Amadeus’ past works quite well since it doesn’t feel forced that these details come out — despite the book itself being a contrivance, though it doesn’t feel like one. It’s a neat trick that Van Lente and Pak pull off. Beyond that, Amadeus’s journey to discover the truth about his parents’ death and the whereabouts of his sister gets moving rather quickly as he visits Excello, Utah, a city where objects and buildings only exist when your senses tell you that they exist.
That little joke is pulled off with skill by the writers and artist Rodney Buchemi, especially when Agent Sexton — the woman who saved Amadeus at one point — shows up, frantic and trying to convince him that something is amiss. While Amadeus already suspected something, it just sounds ludicrous coming out of Sexton’s mouth. It helps ground Amadeus a bit, making the seventh smartest person in the world a little more relatable in the face of a crazy woman.
Buchemi’s art is workmanlike and doesn’t get in the way of the writing, but doesn’t always add to it. He handles the flashbacks to Amadeus’ past and the more fantastic elements of Excello, but falls down on facial expressions and letting us see what’s going on in Amadeus’ head sometimes.
Through the seventh smartest person in the world, Van Lente and Pak find a relatable and interesting character in Amadeus Cho. This issue provides readers with a quick catch-up on who Amadeus is and what he’s gone through, making this a great jumping on point. As well, the final page is one of the best cliffhangers of the year.