Writer: J.D. Morvan
Artists: Looky & Oliver Thill
Publisher: Titan Comics
In the distant future, humanity has discovered that the ancient Greek gods and figures of myth were simply alien races from other planets, and they now fight and die for them in galactic wars. Hercules, now living with his family in space, is forced by one of the gods to kill his family, and redeem himself by completing twelve trials for the ruler of a distant planet.
That’s as near as I can figure what the plot of Hercules: The Wrath of the Heavens is. It’s got a real issue with over-complicating things. The art, the story, the world. All have a bit too many moving parts and it’s hard to keep track of it all. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if there were characters to keep things grounded, but most of the characters seem to be nothing more than plot devices to be moved around. Despite all of that, I found myself enjoying Wrath of the Heavens for the pure spectacle and absurdity of it all.
The cold open of Hercules killing his family doesn’t exactly work. While the artwork by Looky and Oliver Thill is meticulously detailed and even quite beautiful at times, that detail makes it hard to know what you’re looking at with all the metal shards and wiring in almost every panel, and the overall aesthetic being brought to life here is pretty ugly. It’s gritty and macho and kind of ridiculous(why does Hercules have a tattoo of his own name?). As the comic goes on, the aesthetic mellows out a bit, at least in scenes that aren’t on a spaceship, but the problem with the layouts persist. They’re simply too small for all of the detail being crammed into them, and while I think they’re supposed to be keeping the pacing fast and conveying a sense of movement, it just results in being overwhelming as a series of fast cuts to impossible to make out movements and scenes.
What ends up killing the opening scene, however, is the writing and the dialogue. Before we learn any of what this world is about, why Hercules is in space, the Greek gods are actually aliens, why he’s killing his family, we get a monologue from Hercules just before he kills his family about how being forced to be a hero and a legend doesn’t let him be a man and, well, you can fill in the rest of it with the usual cliches. The dialogue, not just in this opening but throughout the comic, is cliched and flat. Completely without emotion or personality, it either sets about explaining the convoluted world of the comic or trying to get the reader to care about these characters with the most obvious cliches possible(It’s a fun guessing game to try and figure which one will be used for the bad guy’s motivations).
The few brief moments with the gods themselves, or, god(I think), are fairly interesting. Her design is intriguing, somewhat horrific and alien, but with clear sexual implications, but she doesn’t stick around for long and outside of her design and oddly unsettling movements, there isn’t much to her.
The rest of the comic deals with Hercules tracking down a killer robot tiger that’s eating children on a planet of farmers. While the spectacle of Hercules fighting a robot tiger manages to work just as you’d expect at times, most of the time you can barely make out the lion in the mess of scrap metal and wiring that it’s represented by. The brief clear glimpses there are of it when it fairly still reveals an interesting design, but it does not work at all when drawn in motion.
While interiors may not be the art team’s forte here, open areas work a lot better, and when fairly uncomplicated characters appear, they reveal interesting designs that elevate the world of the comic from its otherwise ugly aesthetic.
There’s a mystery to unravel here, why the gods are once again messing with Hercules, and how exactly everything from myth with translate into this sci-fi reimagining, but if I’m being honest, it’s hard to care when about the only thing Hercules: The Wrath of the Heavens #1 gets right is spectacle. With a very hit or miss art style, cliched and flat dialogue, one-note characters, and a story too convoluted to follow, I can’t say I’m looking forward to reading more of this comic.
Geek-o-Rama received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments and opinions are those of the individual reviewer.