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Chaos War Paperback – April 20, 2011
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Overall, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente's epic conclusion to their eight-volume Incredible Hercules story is deeply disappointing. The plot, so much as there is one, involves a resurrected Hercules, granted near-omnipotent powers, who must assemble a squad of Gods to save existence from The Chaos King. Marvel has done a number of these mega cosmic battles before, but this is arguably the worst, with ultra-fast pacing and a lack of identifiable rules for how the war is to be waged. Too many characters appear for too short a time (some, like Tigra, appear for no more than a splash page) and too many heroes and villains die too quickly. By issue four, 98.76% (according to Amadeus Cho) of the multi-verse has been destroyed. And of the heroes that stick around, some--like Silver Surfer--are very obviously scripted out of character. Worst of all, the book ends with a cheap "reset" trick, undoing almost all the death and destruction the reader has just witnessed. As for the art, Koi Pham's pencils are interesting, but the final product is arguably too busy for a crazy, cosmic epic like this one. The coloring is also surprisingly muddy for such crowded panels.
If you've been following Pak and Van Lente's phenomenally good Hercules series, you'll probably want to pick this book up--if only to see how the dangling plot threads of that series get resolved. For non-Herc readers, you're best off skipping this one--especially since it requires that you have some familiarity with recent events from the Herc books (in fairness, the graphic novel does supply a summary in the back).
(Marvel Comics, 2011)
I have to admit, it took me a long time to get around to reading this one, partly because of the flood of negative reviews posted earlier on Amazon, and also because I am deeply, profoundly so totally ready for Marvel to stop already with the mega-meta-crossovers, and reading another one with an extraterrestrial/other-dimensional baddie swooping down on the Marvel universe did not do much to spark my interest. HOWEVER, I'm a fan of the late, lamented, humor-filled "Incredible Hercules" series, and when it became clear that this was, indeed, the real conclusion to that title, I finally gave in and picked it up. And, yay! It's pretty good.
Even with all the other Marvel super-teams and whatnot floating around and getting whomped on in the background, turns out this really is a Hercules story, retaining much of the humor and timing of that title, also tying up the loose ends of that book's major story arc. Plus they still had the funny, pun-filled smack-down sound effects, which I find very charming. The Hercules character, with all his flaws, is treated well here, and if you followed the IC story, you should be pleased with this final(?) chapter. Another nice touch is that this TPB has a coherent, self-contained narrative that stands on its own, even though other Marvel titles were obligated to provide tie-in episodes. This wasn't always the case with the meta-crossovers (Civil War, Secret Invasion, blah blah blah) which often felt scattershot, even when you had all the tie-in books and read them together. This book has a beginning, middle and end, and if you read it by itself no other Chaos books are needed.
Hopefully Marvel can revive the Hercules series sometime (with the same comedic tone!) but this was a satisfying conclusion. (Axton)