In his play "The Mourning Bride," 17th century author William Congreve penned the immortal line, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." But imagine if the woman in question was an immortal goddess and ruler of a pantheon of gods?
In the Marvel Universe, such a frightening figure exists. Her name is Hera and she's gunning for Hercules, Amadeus Cho, and Athena: the cast of "The Incredible Hercules" series.
CBR News spoke with the co-writer of the New York Times best-selling series, Fred Van Lente, about his plans for the book, which kicks off its tie-in to Marvel's ongoing Dark Reign saga in issue #127, on sale March 25.
"Love and War," the most recent arc of "Incredible Hercules," came to a close in issue #125 and saw Amadeus Cho find love in the form of the Amazon warrior known as Delphyne Gorgon. But Amadeus also experienced heartbreak, because Delphyne left him to become the new ruler of the Amazons. Unfortunately for Cho, the pain is only going to get worse. "You haven't seen the last of Delphyne Gorgon in the pages of Incredible Hercules," Van Lente told CBR News. "The next time she turns up, it may be in a capacity that doesn't please Amadeus very much at all."
In "Incredible Hercules" #126, Van Lente and co-writer Greg Pak reexamined the origin of Hercules, The entire story took place in Ancient Greece, and saw Athena prophesize that Hercules will eventually become a hero that slays monsters and ushers mankind into a new age of reason. She also proclaims that should Hercules perish, "there will come another" who will take up his mission. Athena used her mystical powers to gaze into the future at that other person just happened to be Amadeus Cho.
Athena's premonition about Amadeus have left readers wondering just what she meant. "Athena definitely seems to have an interest in Amadeus that goes beyond one really smart person (or goddess) to another," Van Lente teased.
"Incredible Hercules" #126 also dealt with the reasons for Hera's grudge against the Greek Goliath. Her vendetta sprang from a number of incidents, but the thing that drove Hera's hate seemed to be the fact that Hercules was conceived by her husband Zeus and another woman. Hera's hate of Hercules is currently white hot, but in ancient times, an attempt was made to try to alleviate the Goddess of some of her malice. "Zeus tried to placate Hera by marrying Herc to her daughter, Hebe, Goddess of Youth. But it looks like that didn't quite take, huh?" Van Lente remarked. "Hera's immortal life has been a series of crushing disappointments for both her and her children. Ultimately, she's a tragic figure, a sad, bitter woman. Now that she's inherited the thunderbolt and rule of Olympus with Zeus' passions, she now has the power to take out the two people she holds most responsible for her misery, Herc and Athena -- and whoever chooses to stand with them."
After Zeus's death, the modern day seat of power for the Olympian Gods became the Olympus Group, a mysterious corporation that Hera is now in charge of. "Most people just assume they're a large 'G.E.'-type corporation with their fingers in a number of different industries -- construction, entertainment, manufacturing," Van Lente explained. "They have a new product line coming out called CONTINUUM that, well, let's just say it's pretty important to the lives of Hercules and his friends, and not in a good way. But as for what it is, exactly, you'll just have to wait and see."
Hera's machinations with the Olympus Group pick up in issue #127. "You may recall that in 'iHerc' #123, Hera downgraded all the stock of all the other gods' holdings in the Olympus Group," Van Lente stated. "Athena's stockbroker would have told her this at some point, leading to a 'sit-down' between the two rival goddesses--with their respective champions in tow, of course."
As if Hera's vendetta wasn't bad enough, "iHerc" #127 also finds the cast dealing with the reality of Norman Osborn's Dark Reign over the Marvel Universe. "Our Dark Reign tie-in features Hera in a prominent role, as she tries to destroy Athena and her allies and forge an alliance with the greatest mortal power, Norman Osborn, at the same time," Van Lente explained. "This is a two-parter with a doozy of a cliff-hanger in between."
It's Hercules's adventures in "Mighty Avengers" that have put the Greek Goliath and his friends on Norman Osborn's radar. "Norman despises all the Mighty Avengers for reasons that will soon become obvious in that series, and would love to see Herc and Cho spend the rest of their natural lives in the Negative Zone. Or worse," Van Lente said. "But he's not exactly alone in that respect...."
Some of the others who bear similarly ill will towards Herc include Osborn's associate on the Dark Avengers, Ares, Hercules's half-brother. Look for this to come to a head in "Incredible Hercules" #128. Van Lente previously wrote Norman Osborn in issues of "Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man," and Ares menaced Hercules in the first arc of "iHerc," but #128 marks the first time the writer gets to tackle some of the other Dark Avengers. "I love Morrison's Marvel Boy. I wish he was still hooked up to the Plex, though," Van Lente remarked. "And working with Greg, who has more experience with the character than I do (which is, like, none), I found myself enjoying the Sentry more than I would, just because he is such an unlimited source of comedy. His confrontation with Hercules is one of my favorite things in the whole series, honestly."
Ares' return to the pages of "iHerc" comes after the war god experienced a loss. At the beginning of "Love and War" his daughter, Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons, was murdered in a coup de tat. "We wanted to address his feelings about that, but we didn't have the real estate," Van Lente explained. "Knowing Ares' personality, the main interest he would have in Hippolyta's death would be in avenging it, but since Delphyne Gorgon already did that for him, I'm sure he's had to make peace with it in some other way. Like by breaking things."
"Incredible Hercules" #128 will put Ares' loyalty to the test. The solicits for the issue reveal that a threeway battle erupts between the Dark Avengers, Hercules, and the forces of the Olympus Group under the leadership of Ares's mother, Hera. "Would *you* battle a super-villain team lead by your mom? That is today's deep philosophical question," Van Lente said. "Please discuss amongst yourselves on the CBR Marvel Universe message board."
Hercules, Athena, and Amadeus Cho will also have to wrestle with some difficult questions and decisions in the Dark Reign tie-in arc of "iHerc." "Amadeus learns he may not be able to trust his Olympian allies. Athena's various conflicting schemes begin to catch up with her," Van Lente said. "And Hercules has to confront the deepest contradictions of his birth and parentage."
Obviously, the Dark Reign tie-in arc of "Incredible Hercules" will feature an uncommonly large cast of characters. But that's fine with Fred Van Lente. "Serialized comics are most fun with a large ensemble cast, even if it is anchored around a main hero, like ours is," he said. "I think I've mentioned most of the supporting characters already -- oh, except Pluto! Pluto is a big deal in this arc. A very big deal. And expect at least two -- count 'em! Two! -- other Mighty Avengers to appear in this arc."
Fans of "iHerc" will be glad to know the comedic series' levels of high-octane violence will remain high in the months ahead. "Even though we're known primarily for our humor, and that's great, certainly a lot of grim violence has occurred during the course of the series, and this arc is no different," Van Lente said. "In fact, the latter part of the arc is *about* death itself..."
The two-issue Dark Reign arc features illustrations by Dietrich Smith, and the events of that lead directly into another small multi-part arc which is being drawn by Ryan Stegman. "Both have been kicking butt," Van Lente stated. "Dietrich has a grittier style perfect for the urban setting of the Dark Reign two-parter, and Ryan comes on for the three issues that round out in the arc, set in the literal Greek Underworld. He's had to draw more dead Marvel characters than the artists on 'New Avengers', and he's doing a great job so far!"
From the very beginning, "Incredible Hercules" has been a joy for Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak to write, and the duo are immensely grateful to all the fans who've supported the title. Said Van Lente, "We hope to continue to be worthy of your kind words and attention!"