Friday, January 03, 2014

Retro-Review: Hercules #10 (Modern Comics)

188635And it's time for the return of Retro-Reviews to the Random Acts of Geekery! But this time I'm going about it a bit differently. I've started re-reading my comic book collection (all four short boxes of it, as of this writing), and what I'm going to do is pick a book more or less at random that I haven't re-read yet, and read it and blog about it here!

The first book I've chosen is Hercules #10, as reprinted by Modern Comics from the original Charlton Hercules #10. The Charlton series basically retold the mythological stories of the 12 tasks of Hercules, although in sometimes altered form!

The cover art, as well as the art for the Hercules story in this issue, was both penciled and inked by Sam Glanzman. The Hercules story was written by Joe Gill, one of Charlton's mainstay writers. Also in this issue is an installment of Thane of Bagarth, written by Steve Skeates with art by Jim Aparo.

"The Ninth Head that Coudn't Die" opens with a full-page splash, as Hercules asks Zeus for a rest from performing the tasks assigned to him by King Eurystheus (egged on by Hera). He's heard also by Hera and Mars, who mock him. Zeus chooses not to answer directly, but instead by sending bolts of lightning down, so Herc goes back to Mycenae for his next task.

Eurystheus tells Hercules that there's a swamp in Argos near the Well of Amymone, and Herc is to find and kill the monster there, and bring it back. When Hercules suggests this is an easier task than the others, because he can use his weapons, the King replies, "Yes it does, doesn't it? Well... have fun, Hercules." This is but one example of some colloquialisms the characters use in dialogue that I find kind of jarring, no matter how great the art is. Hercules is suspicious, though, and consults the Oracle of Plaeceum, but when he tries to enter the Oracle's cave, fumes from the netherworld try to prevent his entry.

Does this stop our hero? Nay, of course! Upon entering the cave, Hercules spots a golden beast, but instead of attacking it, he says, "Your trickery goes for naught, Oracle. Answer my question lest I lose patience and smite thy true self despite thy guise!" So now Herc is talking more like we expect comic book gods to talk, thanks to years of reading Thor! Changing to her true self as a beautiful brunette woman with hair long enough it rests on the cave floor, she beckons Hercules forward so that she may whisper into his ear.

However, this is a trick, for as Hercules gets closer the strands of her hair start to wrap around him (like the Inhumans' Medusa). The Oracle tells Hercules he is her slave, but Herc still has one arm free! And with that arm, holding his sword, he says, "If I can but wield my the sword once... touché!" as he destroys the vision that was destroying him.

Yes, you read that right, the Greek half-mortal/half-god Hercules says "Touché"!

Well, this causes the Oracle to present herself in her real true form, a crone, saying what she did was but a prank, and that "You could hurt someone with that thing!" Finally, she tells Hercules the monster of the swamp is the Lernaean Hydra, a huge snake with nine heads, and that one of those heads may not be chopped off, while the others will multiply if removed.

Meanwhile, back on Mount Olympus, Hera is plying Zeus with food and drink, and musicians play. Zeus asks how Hercules is faring, and tells Zeus that he's off to fight the Hydra... and not to blame her, but King Eurystheus, for the nature of the twelve labors. Zeus is certain Hercules will triumph.

Later, at the swamp, Herc's chariot and horses become stuck in the muck, so he must proceed on foot. Shortly, he is beset upon by the Hydra! He begins slashing at it with his sword, chopping off heads, but of course two heads grow in the place of each one he cuts off! He decides next to try for the main head, but when his sword hits the neck of that one, it is as if it had struck granite, causing Herc to cry out, "Oh, golly."

Yes, that's what he said. "Oh, golly."

Well, as Herc beats a hasty retreat, he is fortunate enough to encounter the youthful admirer, Iolaus, who is bearing a torch. Hercules tells Iolaus to set fire to the swamp, somehow determining that if the severed heads are burnt, they will not multiply. He's successful with this, but before he can kill the Hydra, Iolaus screams, warning Hercules that he's about to be joined in the battle by a gigantic land crab! While the shell of the crab is impervious to his sword, its mouth is not, and Herc strikes, stabbing it there with his sword.

But what of the Hydra? He'd forgotten about it, and it had been patient enough to wait for the crab to finish before renewing the attack. With all the heads cut off but one, Hercules climbs up a handy cliff, so that he may somehow gain better leverage, finally chopping off the main head! But even this won't keep the Hydra dead, as the rest of it won't burn, and it will be able to regenerate. So Hercules takes a humongous stone, and throws it on top of the last of the heads, saying that the stone will never move again.

Lightning rips from the sky as Zeus speaks to Hercules, saying, "Thou dost well, Hercules, my son. I, your father, acknowledge thy excellence and hope soon to bid you welcome into the kingdom of the gods! Perform thy deeds that the  day wouldst soon come." Nice speech, that.

Of course, Mars gets the last word, telling Hera, "Gee, Ma, I hate that kid." Yes, that is indeed what he says.

Still, modern expressions aside, it's a fun retelling of the story, and I have to wonder if this series might have inspired Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in some way.

Next, it's Chapter 10 of Thane of Bagarth. Thane is not a name, but a title. The main character appears to be a warrior named Hrothelac, use was banished from his home country and found by Celts when he lay bleeding from wounds received in battle (he used to be Thane, or leader of Bagarth). As the women of the tribe tend to his wounds, word arrives that a Viking ship was approaching the English shore. The women note a strange symbol on Thane's hand (a circle with a line through it, extending through on both sides). Thane is a former nobleman of the Geats, the text tells us.

Well, after that recap of Hrothelac's origins, we see a modern-day man, flying through time and space through use of a time machine, and he lands in medieval England. Hiding from approaching horsemen, he ducks into the woods. Meanwhile, in Sweden, Vikings are battling the Swedes, and their leader has been separated, but found by Freahulf, who herself just escaped. However, Bowanda, treacherous kinsman to Hrothelac, currently Thane, sees that Eadstan (the leader we just met) isn't among his warriors, and he figures this gives him and opportunity to advance his own station.

Yeah, I'm kind of confused by all that myself. There's an awful lot happening in this story, all 7 pages of it. There's two pages to the recap, two pages with the time traveller, two with Freahulf and Eadstan, and one page with Bowanda. And I really have no idea what's happening. In some ways, it almost reads like a tale that a child is telling, making it up as they go along! I'm Facebook friends with Steve Skeates, I may have to ask him what the deal was with this story!

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