Review Date: Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The Incredible Hercules
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente: Writers
Clayton Henry & Salva Espin: Artists
Raul Trevino: Colorist



     Honorable Bongo Congo citizen Ken Carson tells me that Marvel changed-over The Incredible Hulk at issue #113 last year to The Incredible Hercules.  I was a fan of the 1970's DC run of Hercules Unbound, so I thought I'd check-out the latest Marvel take on our old-school hero and see how he's holding-up these days.
                Issue #113 is titled "Axis Mundi" and is part three of an ongoing multi-issue story arc entitled "Love & War."  Its scripted by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, with art by Clayton Henry & Salva Espin.  This is a story chock-full of a lot of characters, from traditional Marvel Superheros such as The Submariner and his cousin Namora,  to a wide range of Greek mythological characters.  The densely-packed plot centers on a group of Amazons attempting to retrieve from the ocean an ancient artifact known as the Omphalos, which legend says if brought to the center of the world's power base (formerly Atlantis, now Washington, D.C.) can be utilized to control the world.
                I enjoyed this take on Hercules and his adventures for a few reasons.  The modern-day sub-plot of the story was enjoyable enough, but the creative team elevated the story quality with very timely and entertaining flashbacks to the original battle for control of the world between The Titans and the three original Greek brother-gods of Zeus, Pluto and Poseidon.  The flashback mythology was also extremely relevant to the present-day sub-plot struggle among competing factions of the Greek gods and the Amazons for power and control of the world.
As I've mentioned in previous columns, I'm also a huge fan of artists who are adept at portraying  a wide range of facial emotion in their work, and the art team of Henry and Espin must now be added to that list.  They must be particularly commended for a full-page spread detailing resident's reaction to the fabled flood of Atlantis, as well their portrayal of a teenaged Amazon-Gorgon hybrid warrior named Delphyne, who is torn between assisting Hercules's young ally Amadeus Cho with their side of the struggle versus her fellow militant Amazons and their quest for ultimate power.
                Finally, the issue concludes in a nice cliffhanger of power-struggle manipulation among the gods in a modern-day corporate setting, reminiscent of the law firm-boardroom world of the popular run of She-Hulk just a few years ago.  So all-in-all, a recommended thumbs-up for a fresh and entertaining take on Hercules, for its well-crafted combining of old-school mythology with modern-day superhero story-telling.


Iron Man/Incredible Hulk/Nick Fury #1
Writer: Frank Tieri, Paul Tobin, Joe Caramagna
Artist:Hugo Petras, Salva Espin
Penciller: Ronan Cliquet
Colorist: Chris Sotomayor, Guru eFX
Letterer: Rus Wooton, Nate Piekos



Marvel has a one-shot comic out this week entitled Iron Man/The Incredible Hulk/Nick Fury #1.  Its clearly a marketing promo for the Marvel Universe version being created in the recent Iron Man movie and continuing in the upcoming Avengers movie.  Tony Stark is drawn in this comic to look exactly like Robert Downey, Jr., while Nick Fury is a drawn copy of the upcoming Avengers movie star Samuel L. Jackson.

The key review consideration here is whether the three mini-stories presented in this issue stand-alone as enjoyable comic book tales or alternately serve as weak promos for their movie tie-ins.  From my read of the comic, Marvel succeeds on two-and-a-half out of three counts.
The Iron Man story is entitled "Fast Friends," and is the story that is only partly successful.  The first 7 pages are a dragged-out, fairly boring extended series of scenes over-emphasizing that Tony Stark is the shallow, self-centered jet-setter that anyone who's ever read an Iron Man comic is aware of, and doesn't need to see more than one or two pages of in any story, ever again.

Fortunately, the remaining five pages of the story balance-out the poor start, offering us a nice interaction between Stark and agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as they play an intellectual cat-and-mouse game over whether Iron Man will work for the agency and whether or not Stark will keep his Iron Man identity anonymous.

The remaining two stories are much more fresh and enjoyable to read.  "Incredible Hulk: The Fury Files" gives us a 12-page plot of Nick Fury conducting a surveillance operation on Bruce Banner, knowing that he's of interest to General Ross but trying to figure-out exactly why.  How Fury learns of Banner's Hulk alter ego and the resulting meeting of the two makes for a high quality, enjoyable story. 

The final story, a 10-page tale entitled ""Nick Fury: Spies Like Us," gives us a Cold War-era spy thriller with Nick Fury on an undercover mission in Eastern Europe.  It's a non-superhero, traditional spy-versus-spy tale with excellent intrigue and action elements which bring-out Fury's personal spy-guy abilities on a stand-alone basis, without him needing to rely on his team or any heroes.

While the Iron Man story didn't offer anything new here, the two Hulk/Nick Fury stories were top notch, and made me want to see the upcoming Samuel L. Jackson movie treatment as well as read more Fury/Jackson comics.  I understand that Jackson actually gave Marvel permission this past year to update recent Nick Fury storylines by redrawing Fury in his image.  If this issue is any indication, the update comes-off very well, both graphically


Jonah Hex #38
Publisher: DC Comics
Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti: Writers
Jordi Bernet: Art & Cover


         DC is currently up to issue #38 of its current run of Western character Jonah Hex.  For the uninitiated, Jonah Hex first appeared in 1972 in All-Star Western as a Clint Eastwood-type anti-hero.  Hex was an ex-Confederate soldier who after the Civil War headed West for many a comic book adventure.  The right side of his face was severely scarred from pre-Civil War days.  Throughout the 1970's and well into the 1980's, Hex was a staple of the DC Universe, eventually in the 1990's even being creatively written into more futuristic science fiction and fantasy storylines.
            The current Hex comic series is up to issue #38, and is written by the Jimmy Palmiotti-Justin Gray team that's currently scripting the Maelstrom mini-series reviewed above, with art by Jordi Bernet.  The one-issue storyline, entitled "Hell Or High Water," mainly consists of a detailed flashback about a Western sheriff whose life went bad for many reasons as detailed in this comic.  The sheriff blames Hex for his life's failures and is telling the flashback story after having just beaten Jonah Hex in a fistfight.  He plans on killing Hex, for reasons detailed in the flashback.  How Hex gets out of this predicament would ruin any suspense, so I won't include it in this review.
            This is a decent Western comic, of a genre that was much more popular in the Golden and Silver ages of comics and is rarely seen today.  The writing here is very strong, following the traditional Western fiction story structure of lots of characters interacting with each other both in action sequences and in scenes of basic Western-style dialogue.  Unfortunately, Bernet's art here is not very good, or at least not to my taste for a comic book; it's too cartoony and sketchy in style, feeling unfinished and rough.  If the reader has no background understanding of the Jonah Hex story, one wouldn't even notice his facial scarring with Bernet's particular style.
            While the below-average art keeps this comic from being of high quality, the writing is so well representative of the western fiction genre that this comic is still a thumbs-up, and thus recommended to modern-day fans of the underrepresented Western comic genre.


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