I was fairly late to the Greg Pak Hulk party. By the time I arrived, it had turned into the Greg Pak Herc party and I found myself pretty much sapped of any enthusiasm for hopping onto a book that I had not only missed out on the past few years of stories of, but that had had its main protagonist swapped out for another one.
But if there's one thing that can get me to give something one more shot, it's an Art Adams cover.
Lucky for me. In "The Incredible Hercules" I was honestly a bit amazed to find a comic book that was not only a blast to read, but was actually a nuanced and complicated look at Hercules (of all characters) and his relationship with orphan genius Amadeus Cho. The first (and brilliant) storyline featured the two on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. and Herc's brother Ares, at least on the surface. But it was really about Hercules' apprehension about being a father figure to Amadeus. Amid all the Helicarrier chucking and wine drinking, I found myself really impressed by Pak and Van Lente's ability to infuse a genuine emotional arc into a superhero comic with any trace of strain or hackney.
Their second storyline, "Sacred Invasion," is about Hercules leading a rag tag group of Earth-based gods in a fight against Skrull's pantheon of gods. Leave it to them to find a way to make what has quickly turned into a drab crossover into something interesting, novel, and fun. And, of course, it wouldn't be an "Incredible Hercules" storyline without some pathos, and in this case it's Hercules' concerns about his strengths as a leader. Again, this is handled quite well. The eternal cannon fodder brawler has plenty of reasons to be concerned about his ability to lead tactically, and Amadeus' resemblance to another young comrade from his past isn't helping him relax any.
His team ends up in the realm of Nightmare, who is used to great effect here. He's a typical foil for this kind of cosmic etherealism, but he's also used as an opportunity to get into the heads of all our protagonists. Plus, he's used to facilitate a really big fight with, among many other things, a floating pack of chocolates. (It's gotta be someone's nightmare, right?)
Sandoval and Bonet, while not 100% consistent on the art, do show flashes of real greatness. There are times when their work shows the same kind of flash and style as an Olivier Copiel, but there are also times where the art jerks into a more uneven and angular affair. It's a bit disappointing that Marvel hasn't realized that this is really one of their best written books and deserves a truly top tier art team on both the front of the book and the inside. This art is perfectly capable, but when you've got a comic that's doing so many things right, you can't help but wish it was getting all the push it could be, on every artistic level.
But hey, we're not talking unreadable here. As I said, as "Secret Invasion" is starting to show some wear, Pak and Van Lente have found a new and interesting angle on the whole thing, all while continuing their legitimately captivating examination of Hercules' foibles. Also, he totally scores.
But I do wish Art Adams was still drawing these covers.