The Marvel Universe isn't just a place of super powered humans. It's also home to a number of gods who walk amongst and often meddle in the affairs of mortals.
After their home on Mount Olympus was destroyed and their king, Zeus, was slain, the Greek Gods established a new secret headquarters on Wall Street: the Olympus Group. Zeus's wife, Hera, assumed control of the conglomerate, giving her a devastating amount of power with which to pursue her vendetta against Hercules, which began in the days of Ancient Greece. Presently, the Olympus Group is preparing to launch of a mysterious new product line called Continuum. The only thing known about Continuum is that when Hera gave Norman Osborn a sneak peek, it absolutely terrified him.
And thus the stage is set for a new threat that could wipe out all humanity, and the only one who can stop it is the Incredible Hercules and his all-star team of allies. Announced Saturday at the Mondo Marvel panel at Wizard World Chicago, "Assault on New Olympus" kicks off with a special prologue issue in November and then runs through February in the pages of "Incredible Hercules." Those issues will also feature special backup stories starring the cast of Marvel's popular "Agents of Atlas" series. CBR News spoke with the creators behind the epic tale, writers Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente and artist Rodney Buchemi.
"In the 'Assault on New Olympus Prologue,' Hera is prepared to release Continuum and the threat of that is big enough and terrifying enough that Hercules is able to recruit the New and Mighty Avengers as well as his usual allies like his sister, the goddess Athena, Kid Zeus [the spirit of his father reincarnated in the body of a small child], and Amadeus Cho to go in and storm Hera's base, the Olympus Group Headquarters on Wall Street," Fred Van Lente told CBR News. "Superheroes attacking Wall Street! It's so timely and it's a major epic storyline. So epic in fact that they wanted us to start it off with a Prologue!"
Confronting Hera with an army of heroes is likely to force Hercules into the role of leader, which is a position he's never been comfortable with. "In this case he doesn't have a choice. He's facing an Olympian threat that could wipe out all life in the universe as we know it," Van Lente explained. "They've been backed into a corner and even Athena's master plan has been disrupted by what's happening. In fact the impetus for Hera moving when she does is because a certain Japanese god of evil [Amatsu-Mikaboshi] is making his way back to Earth with a massive army of slave gods in tow."
When Hercules' Avengers assemble, the team dynamic won't be an easy one. The New and Mighty Avengers have a tense relationship, and Hercules and one New Avenger will be especially contentious. "There is a major conflict brewing between Hercules and Spider-Man," Greg Pak said. "As befits a conflict between Herc and Peter Parker, it's the kind of conflict that is as deep, tragic, and emotionally wrought as anyone who has ever survived middle school will understand."
Van Lente added, "The conflict begins to brew in the double-shipping issues [from August-October] of 'Incredible Hercules' and comes to a head in a big-ass double-sized brawl in 'Assault on New Olympus.' This is a story you couldn't do with a married Spider-Man. People say, 'You could do all these stories with a married Spider-Man.' Not this one!"
It's not just the New and Mighty Avengers that have stakes in "Assault on New Olympus." Dark Avenger Ares also has a large part to play in the story. "What's fun is all these different pieces are converging nicely. Ares is going to have his own miniseries that involves Hera and the Olympus Group. So he's definitely locked into what's going on," Van Lente confirmed.
"It's important to remember that Ares is the son of Hera," added Pak. "Hera has many reasons for hating Hercules but one of the top reasons is she feels Ares should be the true hero for humanity. So she's definitely going to drag him into this to help out as well."
Another important player in "Assault on New Olympus" is Delphyne Gorgon, the Queen of the Amazons. "Longtime readers of 'Incredible Hercules' know there is an unrequited love between Amadeus Cho and Delphyne Gorgon, who's one of Hera's top lieutenants. Delphyne desperately wants to kill Athena to rid herself of the Gorgon curse and she's not been idle," Van Lente said. "She may be ready to make her move..."
To do justice to all the characters and conflicts involved, there was only one way Pak and Van Lente could go with "Assault on New Olympus," and that was to make it colossal. "We're about to move into the realm of the epic," Pak said. "It seems like we've had epic storylines in 'Incredible Hercules' before. Our very first storyline where Herc and Amadeus took on S.H.I.E.L.D. felt pretty epic. Then they took on the Skrull gods and that felt even more epic. Now we're really building for these massive payoffs and battles that are coming. This is the first volley in an epic rising of the stakes."
Pak and Van Lente are very excited to have artist Rodney Buchemi on board to bring to life "Assault on New Olympus," and the artist is equally pleased to be collaborating with them. "Working with them has been great," Rodney Buchemi told CBR. "The way I see it, both explore scene composition a lot. This is terrific for my work as it allows more creative freedom -- and they like what I've been doing! Lastly, gosh, I have so much fun drawing every single story!"
Buchemi's love for mythology is just one of several reasons why the artist is having so much fun working on "Incredible Hercules." "Other than that, it's a terrific chance to take my art style to the next level -- especially in battle shots."
Of course, there's also the inimitable cast of "Incredibe Hercules." "Behind that muscle mountain called Hercules there is a good-hearted guy with a high sense of honor, respect for his fellow men, and a rather acidic sense of humor. I want to show all this thru his physical and facial expressions. I want to show his kind but strong style," Buchemi said. "Herc is balanced out by his friend Amadeus Cho -- a super smart teenager with an intelligent sense of humor. And then we also have Athena on the series, symbol of the protective mother, wise and zealous, not to mention a born and dignified warrior with a real show stopper body! Athena is the Goddess of Wisdom, Intelligence and War. That's why I like to show her in noble poses but without overdoing it: I see her as a protective and wise mother."
While "Incredible Hercules" is a fun and exciting assignment for Rodney Buchemi, the series is not without its challenges like successfully melding elements of Ancient Greek myths and the Marvel Universe. The amount of guest stars in "Assault on New Olympus" will also be an undertaking, but it's a challenge Buchemi will enjoy meeting. "It's great to handle characters I grew up with, both as a kid and as a teen - it feels like a dream come true!" the artist said. "This outstanding saga will give me the chance to show my take on the characters inside their own parameters. It'll be both fun and difficult as there will be characters galore. Good storytelling will be vital so that panels won't wind up way too confusing."
Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente are also concerned about not confusing readers, especially new ones, with the action in "Assault on New Olympus." "Every issue of the story is packed full of pay-offs for longtime fans. All the pieces are coming together. But this storyline, and really all the stories in 'Incredible Hercules,' are accessible to new readers," Pak said. "A Hercules story is kind of a fun romp that anyone can get. Once you accept that there's a loveable, yet accident-prone god with low impulse control wandering the Earth, you're ready to follow him anywhere. So each story is something anybody can pick up but at the same time there are a lot of payoffs, call backs, Easter eggs and rewards for longtime readers."
"Assault on New Olympus" will also offer up a reward to long time fans of a different Marvel series, "Agents of Atlas." The cast will appear in backup stories penned by "Agents" writer Jeff Parker. "We've been talking with Jeff for some time now about the interesting ways in which our storylines and characters can intersect and we couldn't be more pleased to have the inestimable Mr. Parker sharing some of the pages of these books," Pak said. "He's done awesome stuff with that book and those characters. It's kind of neat the way these stories will intertwine."
Fred Van Lente agreed. "The Agents have their own mission to go on that will be related to the 'Assault on New Olympus.' It will be a back-up, a side story, but easily as awesome."
When "Assault on New Olympus" comes to an end in the February 2010 issue of "Incredible Hercules," the title character will have a new role both in the book and in the larger Marvel Universe. "**Dark Reign** isn't going to last forever and when it ends it's going to bring with it major changes to the Marvel Universe and Hercules will be a major part of those changes," Van Lente hinted. "We're very excited and grateful to Marvel for wanting to incorporate our book in that manner. 'Assault on New Olympus' is really the ending of one age for Hercules and the set up for the next age."