With a massive power vacuum in the aftermath of Hercules' fall, Athena seeks to establish her vision of the balance of power among the Olympians. Apollo has other ideas on the matter. This issue is centered on an immortal version of recess, with Apollo and Athena choosing captains for their respective dodge ball teams to fight in their stead. Athena chooses her new champion, Amadeus Cho, while Apollo summons Phobos. Cho's team is then rounded out with Namor and Bruce Banner while Phobos gets the additional strength of Skaar and Nightmare.
The writing duo knows how to elicit a chuckle like no other, such as when Apollo is attacked under the sound effects of "SSSINN" and "BLAAASFEME" as well as the visual assault of Phobos' attack on Pluto. Pak and Van Lente have crafted such an interesting cast that the complete lack of Hercules -- save for one flashback panel -- is not a detriment to this title at all. With Cho pushed to the forefront more than ever before, the Pak and Van Lente display their masterful ability to write entertaining stories with seemingly mundane characters.
The "Incredible Hercules" experiment seemed like a very success on every level, from critical acclaim to commercial success (although I do not have actual sales numbers in front of me), but the strongest illustration of that concept's success is, without a doubt, Amadeus Cho. Not only has the character endured, but he has started to endear, so much so that this story leads to new solo adventures for the alleged seventh most intelligent human being.
Olivetti's art is well suited to a tale that features the Greek gods, as the painterly style gives the imagery an ethereal quality that seems based in reality, but shrouded in the mystery of myth. This is a good look for these characters, and it even extends to Skaar and Namor. It is, however, a style best suited to small doses to make it seem all the greater when we do see it. Olivetti masterfully finds areas to let his pages breathe; frequently dropping out backgrounds to give the characters more space to exude their energy.
This issue gives us a heart-warming back-up tale of the Lethe Children's Hospital, a hospital founded buy Hercules to care for the mythologically-imbued children (politically incorrectly branded as "monsters") of the world. Venus and Namora are touched by the cause and elect to continue it in Hercules' name. Not a tale of extreme consequence, but certainly a tale with some emotional resonance.
With this series wrapped up, and the pending adventures of Cho on the horizon, I look forward to more entertaining stories from Pak and Van Lente, and would love to see this duo craft some tales for Hercules' former team, the Avengers. Come to think of it, Pak and Van Lente would probably do a bang-up job on Herc's other team, the Champions, too.