The Incredible Hercules #136

Here's just one of the things I love about "Incredible Hercules." One minute it's taking itself seriously, using Joseph Campbell's heroic journey to map out the path of its characters. Or, it might be taking classic mistaken identity riffs from Shakespeare plays. And then, when you least expect it... one god gives another a wedgie.

"Incredible Hercules" balances the silly and the sublime in a way that few writers can really tackle, always being careful to not move too far in either direction at any one moment. So when you've got a story where Hercules is pretending to be Thor, and Thor is pretending to be Hercules, we've got the two both struggling to make the correct outcome happen while failing to save face. Also, there might be a purple nurple inflicted as part of that confrontation.

I was a little worried when Hercules' sidekick Amadeus Cho temporarily left to appear in his own issues of "Incredible Hercules," but the teenaged, memory-wiped Zeus is filling that role rather admirably. His general disgust and sarcastic remarks towards his son Hercules help keep the levity going even as Zeus states what the reader is thinking. And of course, there's always a good punch line just lurking around the corner when Hercules starts hitting on the fairer sex. This is a long way of saying that if you don't laugh when you read "Incredible Hercules" then you might be a little dead on the inside. (Or completely dead on the inside. Maybe you're an escaped Black Lantern from over at DC Comics?)

Reilly Brown has done a good job with his "Thor vs. Hercules" issues. "Incredible Hercules" is at its best, artistically, when there's a crisp and clean line and that's what Brown and inker Nelson DeCastro deliver. He helps sell Greg Pak and Fred van Lente's humor with his art; seeing that cat-with-the-cream grin on Hercules's face when he comments on Thor-as-Hercules's handsomeness is perfect, to say nothing of Thor's perpetually stern expressions whenever he has to deal with Hercules-as-Thor. And, well, let's face it, Brown draws a fight scene that involves two gods playing dirty and engaging in playground tactics, and makes it engaging. Hopefully Brown will stick around for a while, he's doing just fine.

"Incredible Hercules" is the kind of book that makes me laugh a lot, to the point that I have to make sure I read it in the privacy of my own home. That's not a bad problem to have, though. Pak, van Lente, and Brown are knocking this book out of the park. Won't you give it a chance?

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