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Hercules! IN SPACE!!!

24 Aug

Good day one and all!
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Great to see you all back here again, today we’re again taking a break from the more… esoteric and out there comics and treading more familiar ground. Oh wait… not exactly, I mean it is, he’s Marvel comics mainstay character from the Avengers, hero story and all that but… ah well, you’ll just have to see for yourself folks and I can’t help myself – must bring you something to jog the imagination a little more then usual, variety is the spice after all is it not?
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For your pleasure we bring to you today the first mini-series that Marvel EVER put out. Ever. And mini’s are now an industry standard. Couple that with this being the first book by its writer/artist and starring a then second-string character, well it makes it all the more impressive! Those of you that are fans of Marvel comics, especially in recent years, you will have read or heard of books like “Incredible Herc”, “Chaos War” and others where Hercules, the lion of Olympus, stood tall and proud and delivered spectacular action and great wit and laughs. Truly in the last few years the character has seen a revival and become so much more interesting then the one-track-minded, brutish, drunken horn-dog that he was for so long – today he’s a funny, charsimatic and surprisingly intelligent one-track-minded, brutish, drunken horn-dog. Under the guiding hand of Greg Pak – a man who is without a doubt one of the best writers in past years for me with the way he revamped the Hulk franchise with stuff like Planet Hulk and all the other great titles and stories he’s been writing – Herc and his parnter, child genius Amadeus Cho were a force to be reckoned with and the Marvel U would not be the same today in my view without their adventures!

But on to the main matter at hand!

Our topic for today is a limited series from the ancient era of 1982. Some of you may in your old addled memories recall that age, when comics were a different realm altogether.
In this midst of all the super-heroing and adventures however came an adventure unlike most any other with a story and style that brought me immense pleasure reading:
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Written and drawn by Bob Layton (Iron Man: Armour Wars) with the legendary Jim Shooter as editor-in-chief riding shotgun through this mad romp we find this space-faring godly saga that was so popular it spawned a 2nd limited series two years later, a graphic novel 4 years after that and even in fact a 4th just last year that wrapped up this alternate possible future romp for our hero.
But I’m meandering again. To the comic!
We find at the start of our tale mighty Hercules returning to fabled Olympus for some fun, fights, games and a good time – all of which he is famously known for partaking heartily of – only to find it not quite as exciting as he remembered and before long he is drawing some godly anger for his playful shennigans.
Next thing you know Herc is banished from not only Olympus, but from Earth itself until he finds some humility and a little more sense.Talk about tough parenting…
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Granted thats not all that surprising considering what we know of the character – and I have to admit its certain similarities between the character of Herc, the playful sense of humour in the overall story and the very creatively put together string of adventures that this mini shares with Pak’s later style/take on the character that made it so easy for me to just dive into it all. They are similar enough, yet both unique in their own ways which makes it so easy to read both and not be bothered about whether it is the same continuity or not. Who cares right?
Anyway, so we follow Herc as he rides a chariot through the cosmos – yes a chariot, with horses that eat, well, people… sort of…
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In any case, he picks up a Rigellian recorder robot (long-time marvel fans will be familiar with these) on the way after meeting with some brainy aliens who would like it to travel with our hero and record his adventures and all that jazz. This of course suits the lion of Olympus just fine.
Before you know it, both are rocketing around the space-ways. Fights ensue, as do romantic interludes (oh yeah!) and of course daring heroics and even a space-race – chariot vs. space-ship, who do you think wins? Read to find out ‘cos I sure ain’t telling! 

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To quote Layton himself from Wizard #199:
I wanted to do a coming-of-age story, and the idea of doing it with a 5,000-year-old Greek demigod tickled my funny bone. Herc had always been portrayed by Stan Lee as a conceited, arrogant but likable prick so … it was time for Herc to grow up a bit and develop a degree of self-awareness. I’ve always had a soft spot for forgotten secondary characters and additionally, I had always wanted to try my hand at comedy writing, and Herc was the perfect foil for my brand of humor.”


Facing all kinds of foes and making friends as well along his travels, Hercules grows as a character nicely over the course of the story. And no he isn’t perfect and returning to reclaim his rights at the end or some such cliché, this is just the beginning of more adventures – and just because it bears being mentioned: at one point we even get to see HERCULES VS. GALACTUS!
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That a fight that intrigues you? Well I hope you take the time out to read this because be you casual, regular or even fanatical/obsessive as a comic reader and so long as you don’t have too fastidious a genre choice, this is the perfect kind of barely-heroic adventure story for everyone. Witty, violent, foolish and wise all in good measure, this really made me stop and find the follow-ups and wish Layton had done more as a comic writer!
Cheers till next week all!

Quick Draw : A Short Reviews column

29 Nov

– by Stewart Loud

The Authority Book 3: Earth Inferno And Other Stories.(Collects #17-20, 2000 annual and Summer Special)

Writers: Mark Miller , Joe Casey ,Paul Jenkins ,Warren Ellis
Art: Chris Weston, Frank Quietely, Cully Hamme, Georges Jeanty

I only recently started reading this outstanding series after a friend recommended it to me and I can’t believe I’d overlooked such a gem for so long.This book continues its trend of the refreshingly original group of heroes that make up the Authority facing truly world shattering threats that always end up resulting in vast amounts of innocent civilians being wiped out in densely populated areas. The dialogue is witty and interesting, the fights are tense, the characters are engaging and the detailed artwork continues to do an effective job of illustrating the impressive scale of the disasters.
Only misses out on a higher score due to the last third of the book being taken up by an annual and a summer special containing a few simple filler stories that while being worth a read, don’t compare to the overall standard of the series so far.

SCORE 8/10


The Incredible Hercules: Assault On New Olympus.(Collects Incredible Hercules #138-141)

Writers: Greg Pak , Fred Van Lente
 Art: Rodney Buchemi

Hercules, Amadeus Cho, Zues (who has been reverted to a small child) and Herc’s sister Athena team up with The Avengers to take on the evil Hera and her army of Amazons, Titans and Gods at their New York headquarters to stop her from destroying the universe with her new secret weapon, Continuum! If this sounds stupid to you then you should probably avoid it. If not then give it a go. Lots of fun to read, plenty of humour, plenty of smiting and it gets surprisingly serious at the end.
Features Spiderman, Wolverine, Quick Silver, US Agent, Wasp (Hank Pym) and Spider Woman.

SCORE 7/10


Punisher Max: Tiny Ugly World(One Shot)

Writer: David Lapham
Art: Dalibor Talajic

Hot on the heels of the breathtakingly pointless Happy Ending and Hot Rods Of Death Punisher Max one shots comes a short story about a man who keeps his pickled penis in a jar after his mother cut it off as penance for the sexual relationship they had together when he was an adolescent. Frank himself only makes 2 brief appearances in this dreadful story that feels like it was written by a 14 year old who’d just read his first Garth Ennis comic. Seriously, sometimes it shames me to be a Punisher fan. I spend a great deal of time trying to convince people that comics are an intelligent and interesting form of story telling media, every bit as valid as books and films. This comic is not one of the examples I would use to convince them.


SCORE 3/10


Judge Dredd: Total War(Collects stories originally printed in 2000ad progs 1392-1399 and 1408-1422)

Writer: John Wagner
Art: Colin Macnei, Henry Flint,  Jason Bashill

Been a long time since I read Judge Dredd and after reading this book I’m gonna be reading a lot more! In this story the judges of Mega City One (a vast sprawling city of the future that occupies a large part of the east coast of America) face an ultimatum from the terrorist group Total War: either all the Judges leave the city and restore democracy and trial by jury or they nuke the city one block at a time until their demands are met. You won’t believe some of the things the Judges do as part of their standard operating procedure when trying to bring the terrorists to justice and and all the art is laid out in such a cinematic way you can imagine a lot of the scenes as something from a really well directed movie (the bit where the judges are looking through loads of CCTV footage to track a suspect especially).

The infringement of peoples civil liberties has never looked so cool.

SCORE 8/10


Halo graphic novel(collection of 4 short stories)

Writers: Lee Hammock, Jay Faerber, Brett Lewis

Art: Simon Bisley,Ed LeeAndrew Robinson,Tsutomi Nihiei,Moebius

4 short stories that attempt to add a bit more depth and history to the Halo franchise. Worth a read if you’re into the games but there’s not much here for you if you’re not. While the artwork is very good throughout, a lot of it’s confusing to look at making it difficult to tell what’s going on (I’m a big Simon Bisley fan but this isn’t his best work) and although the stories are interesting they’re not all told that well so after I bought this book hoping to answer a few questions about the Halo universe it just raised a bunch more.
Nice art gallery in the back though.

SCORE 6/10


Gears Of War graphic novel(Collects Hollow parts 1-6 and One Day)

Writer: Joshua Ortega
Art: Liam Sharp, Federico Dallocchio

Again, If like me you loved the Gears of war games then this is worth a look. The Character art and dialogue is true to the source material and it always feels like these are the games characters that you’re reading about. I was hoping that this book would explain a bit about the history of the conflict and E-day but that barely gets a mention. The story is set between the first and second game and follows Delta squad on a mission to investigate some “strange seismic activity”. Every bit as violent as the game with plenty of gun fights but I got the feeling that the writer had wanted to add a tactical edge to the action that the artist couldn’t be bothered to illustrate.
“Flank ’em Dom!” commands Marcus.
“On it!” shouts Dom as they both run at the enemy side by side, shooting from exactly the same direction.
I’m no military tactician but even I can tell you that’s not how you flank someone you pair of douche bags.

SCORE 6/10