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Hercules and his four companions are sailing towards Egypt when their transportation is savagely attacked by pirates. The battle doesn’t exactly go as planned and the group are forced to abandon ship and swim towards nearby land. Once there, they decide to assist a hard pressed Queen’s caravan against a marauding bandit hoard and to prove that no good deed ever goes unpunished they are then captured and forcibly taken to the capital city by the very same coterie they had just aided. Their fate is now seemingly in the lap of the gods but Pharaoh Seti has more down to earth concerns and asks Hercules to aid him in the bloody civil war that is currently afflicting his kingdom.

Hercules1_Vol2_Langley_CoverB.jpgIt really couldn’t have been easy for the kid. To start with, everybody had trouble pronouncing his name: there were several differing variations of it, like Herakles, Alcaeus, Alcides and Hercle. Secondly, his Dad was not only a famous God in his own right but was also the ruler of Olympus and therefore King over all of the other deities. Making matters even worse, his father Zeus was also at the same time his Great, Great Grandfather through the generational line of Purseus, Anaxo and Alcmene. To top it all off, his Mom was human which meant that Hercules got a lot of half-breed crap from the other young godlings when he went to school, so much in fact, that one day he totally snapped and killed his music tutor Linus, by bashing his brains in with a lyre, just because the teacher thought that a certain song could have been performed a little bit better.

After that singular incident, things started to go downhill rather rapidly for the young man. He got married to royalty and then in another temper tantrum killed his wife and offspring which lead to him having to complete the famous Twelve Labours of Hercules as a punishment. Which was a type of community service for ancient times. After completing these tasks, legend tells us that Hercules then met up with Jason in a bar and over several drinks decided to accompany him and the rest of the Argonauts in their search for the Golden Fleece before the whole lot of them got caught up in that whole Helen of Troy debacle. However between the completion of the Labours and that drunken meeting with Jason there is a period of several unaccounted for years and that is where the writer Steve Moore has decided to set his imaginary tales of previously unrecorded Hercules legends.

The action in issue one of the Knives of Kush begins shortly after the events of the previous Thracian Wars mini-series that debuted this new Radical Comics version of the classic Greek hero. Because of that, Moore obviously felt there was no need to re-establish the ongoing characters and instead by the fifth panel on page one Hercules is catapulted straight into a blood soaked engagement with picaroons. This allows the Brazilian based artist Cris Bolson and the extremely prolific colorist Doug Sirois to maximize the patent full painted Radical comic style to full effect. Steve was always known as someone who did his research and its obvious here that he has passed on the fruits of that ancient authenticity to the artistic team. Everything looks as if it belongs in the time period and some of the illustration verges on the level of fine art. I do realise that fully painted books are not to everyone taste but this is a superior example of the genre.

Moore is equally as competent in his handling of the subject material. He wisely doesn’t focus solely on Hercules but also allows the hero’s troupe to have plenty of dialogue lines as well, some of which are the best in the book. Each of the four characters has a differing opinion about their ongoing situation and this allows the writer to express several contrasting views about the Egyptian society around them and the civil war they are about to be caught up in. In this comic, dialogue is also important for another reason. In the previous mini-series some fans complained about how the idiom was far too modernistic for them. They seemed to want a Greek version of the famous Thor Shakespearean verbiage but the Steve has wisely taken the route of the BBC / HBO series Rome which decided to ditch the thee’s and thou’s and instead go with up to date language which helps cement the lector into the ongoing saga.

This new panelogical version of Hercules is not at all godlike He does posses his legendary great strength and is undoubtedly extremely heroic but he is also very obviously human at times as during the occasion when the reader observes him impatiently pacing the floor during his captivity in the royal palace. This makes for a more rounded characterization. We are by now very used to seeing the demi-god pop-culture representations of Hercules but the guy who is portrayed in this book is more like Conan that a member of the Champions. It’s a time immemorial high adventure done in an extremely realistic style and it’s all the better for it. Time has a manner of compressing fact and fiction into legend and perhaps someday in the far future the events depicted in Steve Moore’s stories may become an actual part of the mythical cannon. They certainly fit in with everything else I have read about the character.

Its been widely reported that film director Peter Berg plans to produce a movie version of the Thracian Wars with an option to continue with the other books in the series if the first movie is a hit. Now I am not sure that the guy who directed ‘Friday Night Lights’ and ‘Hancock’ is the right man to make this kind of film but I believe that he could save himself some money on the budget and just use these wonderful comics as the storyboards.

I give this title a total of four stars. The first three are for the book itself and one more star is awarded for just how unbelievably copacetic Hercules looks wearing his lion head hat.

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The Author

Marlowe Lewis

Marlowe Lewis

Marlowe Lewis is old. I mean really, really old. So old in fact, that the first ever sequential art that he ever saw was when his lifelong friend in their small clan began painting bison on the cave walls. This was a true turning point in his life. Firstly, he was immediately and irrevocably hooked on the visual arts, and secondly he discovered another use for dried bison dung.

Marlowe Lewis is British. This is not an apology.

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