Ever since Hercules somehow ended up starring in the Hulk‚Äôs old title, fans have been waiting to see the two of them fight like only brainless powerhouses can. Unfortunately, the 64-page ‚ÄúHulk Vs. Hercules: When Titans Collide‚ÄĚ doesn‚Äôt really fit the advertised bill as neatly as you‚Äôd hope.
With the Hulk largely out of play following the events of "World War Hulk" -- he‚Äôs red, or locked up, or Doc Samson instead of Bruce Banner or something else I‚Äôd rather not think about -- Pak and Van Lente decide to give the fans the grudge match they were after through the liberal use of that most dubious of devices -- a flashback issue.
The framing sequence takes place pretty much ‚Äúnow‚ÄĚ in the Hercules comic as Hercules and Cho are accompanied by Athena. In a diner, Athena explains to Cho a story from the past where the Hulk and Hercules fought, and gives a tidy little moral at the end about how the two characters connect. Not a bad story, really, but nothing that‚Äôll set the world alight either. It‚Äôs the kind of character revelation that, experience tells me, probably won‚Äôt affect the main plot, even though it sounds like it might.
The main problem, as I see it, is that despite Van Lente‚Äôs best efforts, Hercules is still, in the eyes of many Hulk fans, something of a pretender to the throne. The audience wants to see those characters fight, that‚Äôs for certain, but they want to see them fight in a way that genuinely matters. By which I mean, in ‚Äúthe present‚ÄĚ -- the thing about flashbacks is that, by their very nature, we know they‚Äôre not going to cause any big changes to happen. Hercules and Hulk have some nice parallels as the characters go, but that‚Äôs not what the fans wanted out of a Hulk/Hercules fight. I say this confidently because I‚Äôm one of them.
Not helping the situation is the art for the comic, which has been unexplainably farmed out to multiple teams, all drawing a few pages each. This format can work, but surely it needs the framing device to explain it? Here it‚Äôs just a mish-mash of styles. It just feels like the book‚Äôs been rushed out. A reprint of the Lee/Kirby/Everett story from ‚ÄúTales to Astonish #79‚ÄĚ is the real high point of the issue, simply by virtue of the talent involved.
Even fans of the "Incredible Hercules" title will find this one a little lacking. It‚Äôs strictly a book for those who think the idea of the Hulk fighting his way through Ancient Greek mythology might be a fun idea.