Review: Incredible Hercules #129

Herc

There was a time when I was a Marvel Zombie.  Looking back at my review list now, many of you may find that hard to believe, but it’s the truth: up until the ceaseless push of hack events began to swallow every decent idea the company produced in an effort to become increasingly grim to push a faux-realism, I really did not see the appeal of DC Comics.  Every so often, Marvel will do something great – Patsy Walker: Hellcat, for example, or The Immortal Iron Fist.  Brief genre projects less concerned with fitting in with the overarching company-wide directive of misery than with telling fun, fast-paced stories.

Incredible Hercules, while far more wildly uneven than either of the previously mentioned books, fits the same mold.  Despite bearing the “Dark Reign” banner and being hip-deep in the whole Osborn schtick, remains a quick, clever book.  Ryan Stegman’s art is competent and dynamic, capturing the fun and the action in equal measures – and if Incredible Hercules has anything, its action and comedy.

Though the book in general is wildly uneven, #129 is an great entry for the middle of the arc, as Herc, Amadeus and Athena travel together into the Underworld in an effort to free Zeus and overthrow the scheming of Hera and Hades.  Despite the “Dark Reign” banner, the issue doesn’t touch on the metaplot of the MU in any significant way.  The series is never quite as funny as it wants to be and has some underlying issues, but strong characterization and a breezy plot help keep the book fun and relevant.

Grade: B

Read/RANT

Review: Wonder Woman #32

Wonder Woman

This week offered us part 7 of the 8-part “Rise of the Olympian”, Wonder Woman’s big story for the year, a massive arc that brings to bear a whole host of new problems for the Themysciran princess.  Writer Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman has been disappointingly uneven, caught between a desire to by mythic and grounded at the same time, the need for High Action mixed with the rising tension and epic drama.  “Rise” has all the same problems that has plagued the rest of her run, but perhaps because of the extended length, it also has enough time to fit in Simone’s patented wit and charm amidst all the mayhem.

Lopresti, back after a fill-in from Chang last issue, continues to improve over the arc.  I still feel that Lopresti’s clean, beautiful style doesn’t entirely sit with the bloody, ugly mess that Genocide is supposed to have caused, but it is undeniable that the artist knows his stuff, drawing both the action and the drama clearly and expressively.  The grittier bits of the action don’t quite come through, which hurts the tone of the Genocide arc considerably, but aside from that, Lopresti is doing some of his best work here.

The “Olympian” arc is exciting and fun, but it is not resonating with the importance that Simone seems to want it to.  Genocide is a surprisingly efficient monster, more effective in many ways than Doomsday was in design and creation, and the behind-the-scenes drama of the Greek pantheon, while nowhere near as exciting as it was in Rucka’s run, still offers up some intriguing bits for future stories, especially in light of Athena’s revelations last issue.  On the whole, “Rise” is a good, if a bit slight, story that jumps between exciting action segments and occasionally interesting drama that has been hurt more by the marketing and hype of the story than by the quality of it.

Grade: B+

Read/RANT

The Archives: Dark Victory

This book is the sequel to The Long Halloween and it definitely works with that in mind. When it stands alone, this book isn’t nearly as good as it is without its predecessor. Much like the first story’s ending seems a bit unfinished without this collection. When these two combine however, you have a truly epic Batman adventure.

This book’s format, length, look, style and even its plot are very similar to The Long Halloween. Again, this is a “who done it” about a killer who murders people on holidays. Instead of mobsters, death finds the cops. Instead of getting shot, the victims are hanged. Clues are again left, but instead of involving holidays, they portray the game of Hang Man with different phrases written on them. Also, all the clues point to Harvey Dent as the killer.

In the first book, Loeb relied heavily on the mystery and who was behind the killings. In this story, the mystery takes a bit of a back seat to deal with the characters involved in the mystery. The “who done it” is easier to solve in this collection than the last one, but this time, almost every character is focused on and we are given good reason to either love or hate them. Also, we see a lot less of Bruce Wayne because Batman is more in control this time. We also get to see the origin of Dick Grayson played out and we see his slow transformation into Robin. Tim Sale’s art was already miraculous in the first book and his art has continued to evolve. The characters still have that unique stylization that brings a bit of magic out of everyone.

I suppose in addition to the mystery being a bit easier to unravel, the story’s length also hinders its enjoyment a bit. Especially when combined with the first story. Still, it doesn’t affect its impact nor does it detract from the quality of the story. By the end of both books we are tired of all the murder and corruption in Gotham, but I suppose that’s how Batman feels.

I really enjoyed this book. Even though it doesn’t receive as much praise as The Long Halloween, there is still plenty to love and I may have even enjoyed this story more.

4 stars