Writers: Greg Pak and Fred van Lente
Penciller: Reilly Brown
Inkers: Terry Pallot with Jason Paz
Colorist: Val Staples
Letterer: Simon Bowland
I’ve finally plowed through just about all of the Siege wrap-up books– I skipped Fallen Sun: The Sentry because I’m just about sick of Bob by now, no offense to the creative team intended– and am starting to get into the first few Heroic Age titles. Heroic Age: Prince of Power seemed like a pretty good place to start, and I’m glad I wasn’t wrong. Amadeus Cho’s first solo book is a fun ride.
A couple of shameful confessions are in order before I get down to business, I suppose. First off, I don’t really get into the Hulk the way I do, say, Iron Man or the X-Men. Thor’s managed to win a place in my pull thanks to Kieron Gillen, but the Hulk has never really had a creative team that appeals to me. Secondly, I’ve never read any of Incredible Hercules, and that’s entirely because I just don’t have the scratch to read everything I might want to read in a month. (I took an iPhone pic of the Department’s epically huge pull sheet for May 2010 when I filled it out. I should post that, just so you can feel my pain.)
I did, however, read the first issue of Hercules: Fall of an Avenger, and what I saw of Amadeus Cho in there, I liked. I knew that I was coming to Prince of Power at a heavy disadvantage, not having read any other books featuring everyone’s favorite boy genius… and, after my attempt at reading the new Birds of Prey earlier tonight, which presupposes a great deal of DCU knowledge, I was a little wary of what I was going to get here.
Thankfully, Pak and van Lente are smart, efficient writers who can pack a lot of backstory into a few witty captions. I went from not knowing shit about Amadeus Cho’s situation to meeting his ex-girlfriend, getting a feel for his mentor Athena Panhellenios, watching him fight the Griffin, and seeing him fail to manage his corporate holdings in any sort of reasonable fashion. For 22 pages, that’s not a bad start at all; I feel like I can read this series and understand what’s going on without having to hit up my resident Incredible Hercules fanboy every five minutes, and that’s a nice feeling to have.
The supporting cast is fleshed out nicely as well. Hebe, Amadeus’s personal assistant and Hercules’ widow, is a particular delight. She’s caught between a sense of responsibility to Amadeus, and a total unwillingness to roll with his grandiose and often poorly-thought-out plans, but she doesn’t come off as a blithering idiot or a doormat. Inexperienced, yes, but not naive; I could see her exchanging tips on “how to enable your crazy boss without incurring serious personal injury” with Pepper Potts. Given that I had qualms about Fall of an Avenger‘s habit of defining the women in Herc’s life in terms of their sexual relationships with him and nothing else, Hebe is a welcome change. She looks like she’ll grow into her role as Amadeus’s assistant over the next three issues, and that’s great to see.
Penciller Reilly Brown does some great facial expressions and a fantastic two-page spread of Amadeus fighting the Griffin here. His art is clean and straightforward, and Val Staples employs different color palettes to great effect over Brown’s strong linework. (Check out the transition from the day-glo fight with the Griffin to the subdued greens and grays of Bruce Banner’s lab. That’s some nice work.) The art has a solid contemporary vibe; Amadeus wears Marc Jacobs, Banner’s lab is stuffed full of ultratech goodies, and the Olympus Group offices have a Spartan feel to them. Nothing here feels tired or dated, and that’s exactly what I want in a book about a 17-year-old Einstein– a fresh, well-researched approach.
The A-plot comes a little late in the book, a casualty of the amount of pipe that needs to be laid to get there, but it’s a good one, and it plays off all the impulsivity and loyalty to Hercules that Pak and van Lente establish in the pages that precede it. Amadeus decides that, in order to bring Hercules back to Earth, he’ll have to become a god himself and start hunting Herc down throughout a number of parallel worlds. This is about as awesomely ill-advised an idea as Amadeus has ever had– and, indeed, this issue’s cliffhanger involves accidentally pissing off Thor, so you know it’s going to be a lot of fun across pantheons as the book progresses.
Hopefully, this book is a good omen for the Heroic Age– it’s a fast, breezy read with enough backplot to hook new readers without boring the old hands. It doesn’t require encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel Universe’s current status quo. The writing is fresh and funny, and the art’s appealing. I’ll be pretty happy if other creators take Pak and van Lente’s cue and make their Heroic Age titles as accessible to those of us who aren’t omniscient.