The Incredible Hercules comic book by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente was one of the more enjoyable surprises of the last couple of years. Somehow, Pak and Van Lente were able to take one of Marvel's C-list superheroes and make him into a viable leading character for possibly the first time. That book had some wildly over-the-top stories, but it was also a lot of fun.
Herc #1 clears the board for a fresh relaunch. However, nearly all of the things that made Incredible Hercules the book that it was seem to have fallen by the wayside. First and foremost is the absence of Amadeus Cho. I wasn't the biggest fan of "the 7th smartest person in the world," but the reason that Cho and Hercules worked so well together is that they canceled out each other's deficiencies. I think the best comparison is with Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Once that kind of team is formed, it's hard to split them up and expect the same magic.
Because Hercules by himself is… kind of boring. The first issue finds a newly mortal Hercules acting more like The Punisher than the son of Zeus. There's some clever use of his new weapons, but it ultimately feels unsatisfying. Herc's opening battle against some thugs on the subway feels like it could have taken place in any number of comic books.
Hercules soon finds himself wandering without purpose and attempting to answer the prayers of his followers… which seems to be leading into Fear Itself, if I'm interpreting this correctly. Herc then saves a family of Greek immigrants from men loyal to the Kingpin and he soon comes to work for them at their restaurant in addition to sleeping in their spare room. And speaking of sleeping with, Herc has a new woman to bed almost immediately.
The surprise villain at the end is someone tied to the Kingpin that I don't believe Hercules has ever faced before. And Hercules' relative weaknesses as a mortal probably accounts for his initial poor showing against him. But again, it feels empty. This doesn't read like a Hercules story. It's basically like almost every other superhero book on the market. Hell, Herc's new job gave me a flashback to Wonder Woman's stint at a taco restaurant. I understand the need to make Hercules relatable, but so far it isn't working.
On the art side, I don't have any complaints about the work of Neil Edwards and Scott Hanna. Edwards' pages have a lot of life to them despite the lackluster story. There's also a narrative device used by the writers that depicts the weapons and tactics used by Hercules as ancient Greek diagrams. Edward slips it in so effectively that it's one of the best parts of the book. From a purely visual perspective, there's nothing wrong with this comic.
If you want yet another street level superhero book, than maybe Herc is for you. But with these writers and this character, I expect more. When I want The Punisher, I'll read The F***ing Punisher!
Is a little high adventure too much to ask of Hercules?