Hercules: The Thracian Wars #4-5 (Radical Comics)

hercules5_header.jpgHercules and his Grecian warriors face off against the very army they helped make, in a final battle to save everything they hold dear. But is it an unexpected ally who waits outside Thrace’s gates, or another enemy?  

24 and 22 pps., full color, $2.99

(W: Steve Moore; A: Admira Wijaya)

 

Steve Moore, author of Dr. Who and Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales, concludes his foray into Greek mythology in the final two issues of the Hercules: the Thracian Wars miniseries. Issues four and five continue Moore’s extraordinary ability to draw out monumental battle scenes over near-entire issues, throwing in a haphazard tying up of loose ends. Hercules and his band are discovered spying on King Cotys of Thrace, where they have overheard of his plan to conquer Greece. Their initial attempt at escape lands Hercules in the torture chamber, where he discovers just how deep the betrayal runs. Hercules’ strength finally manifests itself, and the furious Greeks unleash their battle skills upon the very army they helped make.

The wraparound cover to Hercules #5 by Clint Langley. Click for a larger image.After that, Moore and Wijaya give us yet another protracted battle scene that spans the last half of issue four and about three-quarters of issue five. Although Moore has hinted that Hercules’ legendary strength truly is from a godly source, and we are finally shown that he does indeed seem to possess such strength, it oddly wasn’t all that impressive to me. I almost felt as though it were a cheap parlor trick for Hercules to knock down the castle gate, or that one of his companions could have just as easily done the same. Perhaps this was because the rest of the Greeks were also supposed to have extraordinary abilities, which weren’t really played up nor explicitly shown to be from the gods. Conjecture was so prevalent for this miniseries that I never took anything that was shown at face value.

In all, I have to say I was disappointed by the end of the comic. Moore had such promising hints of intrigue in issue three that I thought there would be much more cloak-and-dagger storytelling and much less continual hacking. The "mystery" Moore tried to weave into the story any reader of fantasy fiction could have seen coming from a mile away, and despite the lyrics of godly intervention and fate given in the first issue, there really wasn’t any of that in the end. No deep character reflections were revealed, not even any sort of introspection on how their constant battles have affected them. Hercules and his band of Greeks just sort of amble off, grumbling about how they didn’t get paid for their efforts.

Readability does continue to flow well for the final two issues, and Wijaya’s art continues to be more of the same as well. Luckily Wijaya does appear to have learned a bit as the comic has progressed, and so by the final issue the color palette has become far more appropriate for the various scenery, actually helping to evince of sense of space and climate rather than the prior boring monochrome that was offered in earlier issues. And, because there isn’t all that much to say of the interior artwork, I will commend issue five’s cover artist Clint Langley for a well-composed wraparound. From his cover work alone I was able to get a very good sense of each character and a bit of their personality.

What all of this tallies up to is that, for all of the build-up and hinting, after five issues we have only ended up with more slash and hack than story, and what little story there was turned out to be predictable and bland. Moore had a lot of potential with the Greek legend of Hercules, and I think he may have had grand plans in the beginning. Whether he was forced into storytelling limitation by the boundaries of five issues or simply decided that nearly five straight issues of warfare would be more exciting, I don’t know. All I do know is that, although this series purported to be about legendary figures and mythic deeds, in the end it nowhere near approaches the timelessness of its borrowed characters. | Elizabeth Schweitzer

Learn more about Hercules: The Thracian Wars at http://www.radicalcomics.com.  

 

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