Hercules: the Thracian Wars #2-3 (Radical Comics)

hercules-header.jpgHercules and his friends strive to make the ragtag army of Thrace a unit, and give Cotys his desired empire. But, as they close in on a rebel leader, little do they know that a traitor lurks among them.

 

 

22 and 25 pgs. full color; $2.99 ea.

(W: Steve Moore; A: Admira Wijaya)

 

Steve Moore, author of Dr. Who and Tom Strong’s Terriffic Tales, continues his gritty voyage into Greek mythology with Radical Comics’ Hercules: The Thracian Wars. In issues two and three, Hercules and his small band of for-hire Greeks continue to train King Cotys’ Thracian troops. Cue the montage. After bringing the rabble up to an acceptable fighting standard, Cotys demands the troops head out to "unite" Thrace, and what follows is a multi-page slaughter of various small towns. Eventually we are introduced to the rebel leader Rhesus, who, with his own freedom fighters, does everything possible to defeat Hercules and Cotys’ troops. Just as Hercules thinks he has cornered Rhesus, he and the Thracians discover they’ve been led into a trap. They do prevail, but lose one of their own, young Meneus. The Greeks return to Cotys with heavy hearts and a freshly skeptical eye towards their host. Their apprehension is well-founded, when Hercules and the seer Amphiaraus go to tell Cotys they intend to return to Greece, and overhear a shocking plan by the barbarian king.

Hercules issues two and three do keep a good pace with the first issue, and there is certainly no break in the writing. However, even though I understand Moore is likely trying to impart weary and awful nature of battle, I found it tiring to be constantly bombarded with war, death, and barbarian carousing scenes. I felt so jaded that by the time Meneus was killed, I really didn’t care that much. I am hopeful that the cliffhanger left at the end of issue three portends a turn towards intrigue, because the constant battle scenes, although terrifically bloody and graphic, are simply not all that engaging after two issues of them.

Wijaya’s artwork and the overall panel layout do seem to have improved in these two issues; I was no longer groping to find a coherent reading pattern as I did in issue one. The soft-painting coloring, however, was misplaced with all the battle scenes. I’m not sure if it’s the cognitive mismatch between a hard, bloody scenario and the soft lines, but it almost felt inappropriate. Too, the dull, near-monochrome color palette made each scene-whether in Cotys’ palace, traipsing about on campaign, or in the thick of battle itself-seem to blend into one another, with little definition to adequately distinguish the varying settings.

Overall it seems that Moore has a definite plan for where he wants Hercules to go, and I suppose only time will tell if the lengthy lead-up is worth it. I’m hoping it is, if only to see the Greeks’ sense of self re-established. I’m still not holding out for a happy ending, because Greek mythology is often joined at the hip with tragedy, but I would be satisfied if it turned out that beneath all the battle scenes there was a good story. | Elizabeth Schweitzer

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