Robot 6

The Fifth Color | Rise to the Real Heroic Age

Herc calls you all out for Chaos War #1Chaos War is Marvel’s finest example of what a true “Heroic Age” means to comic books.

Let me say that again (in case any cover blurb people are listening): The new five-issue miniseries event, Chaos War, by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, is the finest example of what the “Heroic Age” means to the Marvel Universe and modern comics. If you had ever wondered what that blue banner on your books was talking about or what they meant by “Heroic Age,” then do yourself a favor and go read Chaos War #1.

Within this incredibly crafted over-sized issue, you not only see the triumphant return of a classic ’70s Marvel hero, but there is a Call to Action because the Universe As We Know It is threatened by divine figures, the ultimate authority figure. All the finest heroes are gathered like the best Whitman’s Sampler, along with a key element to make your tale astonishing: the common man. Along with all these heroes and powerful forces is a young man with nothing stronger than the power of his own brain. One who gave up divinity to be who he is and stand next to the impossible.

Pak and Van Lente have worked very hard to get us to this point. They took a title from one of Marvel’s less-touted events (World War Hulk was awesome, it’s just not as relevant as say Civil War or even Secret Invasion, but this is a topic for another time) and fought back story to provide an entertaining read issue after issue. From where they started, Hercules and Amadeus Cho have done something phenomenal to comics: they have grown as characters. Between Incredible Hercules #113 and Chaos War #1, you can actually plot the character arcs that have not only made them better heroes, but better people as well. Their adventures have been told in short and snappy plot arcs, they have weathered through Big Events like Secret Invasion and Dark Reign, they have read up and incorporated older canon (like the Olympus Group and the Pantheon) and even more recent events (the Oeming Ares miniseries) and incorporated both into their own stories like the finest herbs and spices. Incredible Hercules has gone above and beyond the call of duty to present we comic fans the finest in fun storytelling and legendary adventure.

So why does the best book to honor the Heroic Age not even get a banner? Why does the Thunderbolts have it? We’re not even supposed to know about the Secret Avengers and they got a Heroic Age banner! What gives?

(WARNING: maybe spoilers for Chaos War #1? I mean, everyone knows that there’s a war, and it’s against Chaos and our heroes are going to go and fight it, so … it’s a toss up. Go get yourself a copy of the book if you’re not sure. In fact, get two. Just in case.)

For those of you who don’t know, you get two stories for your $3.99 cover price: our call to adventure and some special developments to Hercules’s history in a back-up feature. There is a checklist of all the books that are coming out for Chaos War and their order of release, and a friendly little reading list for the TPBs that tell the back story. There’s even a back page of “letters” for the modern era: some questions from Twitter fielded by Amadeus Cho and the Chaos King (he answers in haiku). This book is not only extra-sized, but it really does kick off the whole event that Pak and Van Lente have worked for.

Hercules is returned to Earth, imbued with pure godly powers he cannot control just yet and gives a big warning to all the heroes that our doom is here. His call is so loud it shakes all the New York heroes out of their own titles and into this one. He’s also so loud that a small group of New Yorkers shout back at him. “Why should we care?” they ask. They are offended he calls himself a God, they threaten to tweet about him! They do not see the call to adventure because they always get left with the cleanup bill. And they’re right; Lord knows that Event Books are incredibly difficult on the Marvel citizen and if some dude in thigh-high leather sandals and a blanket shouted at me, I would not be all that inspired. But that’s because I’m a person, and we live in a world of heroes on the comics page; surely the superheroic will rise to the occasion.

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Nope. Almost soundly, the Avengers and even the X-Men kind of take one look and shrug their shoulders to say, “Meh.” Hawkeye tells the Avengers that Hercules can’t handle whatever it is he’s shouting about (Hercules was a trusted member of the Avengers and Hawkeye has nothing to say about being a loose cannon). Archangel of the X-Men tells his team that he thinks Herc might be wrong about the threat (Warren Worthington is one of the reasons there’s an Incredible Herc book to begin with, as he was part of Amadeus Cho’s team to help the Hulk out in World War Hulk.) Namora calls Hercules a “dumb cat.” That’s just bitter ex talking. Iron Man, bless his Registration heart, wants to see some ID when a god-like being is resurrected and brings word of the first and final menace of the universe.  Hercules returns to the world of the Heroic Age and hears jeers and boos. Anyone else would have shaken their heads sadly and walked away or shouted angrily and displayed their might to force reason down people’s throats.

Hercules stands firm because he does not care what they think of him; he admits his mistakes and demands that everyone rise above them because the fate of the universe is MORE IMPORTANT than any past transgressions. And somewhere, Iron Man and Captain America are still fighting amongst themselves on the Avengers.

Hercules could be considered the God of Heroes in Greek Myth. Surely, he did a lot of heroic deeds and ascended to godhood at the time of his death. He, in many ways, embodies our modern Marvel heroes, both favorably and not so much. He’s arrogant like Thor, drinks like Tony Stark sans recovery, he chafes under too much authority, which certainly describes the life of a vigilante. But no matter what, Hercules will rise to any and all cries to help those who need it. Wikipedia says, “While he was a champion and a great warrior, he was not above cheating and using any unfair trick to his advantage. However, he was renowned as having ‘made the world safe for mankind’ by destroying many dangerous monsters.” That just about sums it up. The Marvel Heroes may be right, Hercules may be flighty or clumsy or not too bright (or… fine, a dumb cat), but the only thing that should matter in times of crisis is to defeat the crisis. I don’t care if he’s Kang, listen to his story then knock him three city blocks! (sorry, wrong book.)

Amadeus Cho is the new Rick Jones, and you might not think that’s important either. Rick Jones and others like him have been the cornerstone of the Marvel Universe for some time, our man on the inside. Rick could have easily been discarded story-wise after Bruce Banner becomes the Incredible Hulk, but he stays in the story to give it a personal perspective and because even those without superpowers can make a difference. He’s our Han Solo in a world of Jedi destiny. Now that the actual Rick Jones is a parody of himself in the Hulk books as A-Bomb, Amadeus Cho steps up nicely as the kid surrounded by adventure, science and myth. He is the only one to calm Hercules down from his shouting, get him to focus and bring this show on the road. He will be our moral center this evening, someone young and able to let go of the past in order to see the adventure in front of us.

Click to read the full inspirational message

Herc rallies the Marvel Heroes (somewhat forcibly) and gives a St. Crispin’s Day speech to make this Event official: “You were born to foolishly reach beyond reason… to stand together in the impossible fight — and turn back apocalypse once and for all!”

This is the Heroic Age, my friends. I know comic book prices suck, but they are going to get better. Storylines have been decompressed, mini-series have tangled you in tie-ins and, let’s be honest with ourselves, sometimes the writing and the art haven’t been top notch on our favorite work. Heck, the cover to Chaos War #1 is kind of dull in composition. The $3.99 price tag on a story that might not affect anything in the rest of the Marvel Universe is normally a deal breaker for Joe and Jane Q. Comic Reader. I fully admit to the foolishness of Marvel’s past publishing mistakes.

But I say to you that, as not only a True Believer but as a comic book fan, you were born to foolishly reach out to the four-color heroics… to stand together to read the impossible fights — and to thrill to adventure again and again!

Readers, we make the heroes. Please read Chaos War #1.



Sold out before I could get to it. Loved the art in the preview though. I recently added my Hercules comics to my comic library at school. They’ve been especially popular with the Percy Jackson readers, go figure. If only they could read Eddie Cambpell’s Bacchus too.

Steven R. Stahl

October 8, 2010 at 11:18 pm

I’m not buying CHAOS WAR because, from what I’ve seen, the premise is junk. Marvel Editorial might call the various mythological beings “gods,” but gods don’t have DNA which can be cloned. Such beings are just humanoids with exotic power sources.

I might buy the DEAD AVENGERS tie-in, but I suspect that Van Lente, et al. won’t account for the fact that the souls crossing over from the realm of Death don’t have bodies. Ignoring that — as, for example, the 10/4 Cosmic Book News interview suggests — might make the stories easier to write, but it’s as ridiculous, in terms of plotting, as having the heroes yak away in airless space.

I have been reading THANOS IMPERATIVE, although the premise is a mess. . . It’s a bit depressing to look back at ’70s Marvel, and compare the stories written then with those churned out now. Back then, the writers were ambitious. They wanted to be taken seriously, and wrote their stories accordingly. Now, Marvel’s revenue goal for the quarter is apparently the main concern, and producing salable units is the writer’s job. Whether an idea is worth developing to any extent doesn’t matter. Roy Thomas might have looked at the story proposals from Van Lente, Abnett & Lanning, and Bendis (who apparently intends to separate magic from metaphysics because he can’t comprehend the latter) and told them to come back when they’d learned how to write.


In a universe where one of the fundamental pillars of existence is a 50 foot space man with a purple helmet that came from ‘before’ the big bang, why can’t ‘gods’ have DNA?

As to learning how to write, surely delivering exciting & fun stories with good character development (When he first appeared I despised Amadeus Cho, now he’s one of my favourite Marvel characters) that deal with big concepts like friendship & growth as a person is all you can ask of a writer? Pak & Van Lente certainly deliver in that respect.

Steven R. Stahl

October 9, 2010 at 10:23 am

In a universe where one of the fundamental pillars of existence is a 50 foot space man with a purple helmet that came from ‘before’ the big bang, why can’t ‘gods’ have DNA?

DNA is the stuff of biological life, but Mother Nature is economical. Beings with DNA are fundamentally the same. A bit of material in the area — — of comparative genomics:

Mice and humans (indeed, most or all mammals including dogs, cats, rabbits, monkeys, and apes) have roughly the same number of nucleotides in their genomes — about 3 billion base pairs. This comparable DNA content implies that all mammals contain more or less the same number of genes, and indeed our work and the work of many others have provided evidence to confirm that notion.

I know of only a few cases in which no mouse counterpart can be found for a particular human gene, and for the most part we see essentially a one-to-one correspondence between genes in the two species. The exceptions generally appear to be of a particular type –genes that arise when an existing sequence is duplicated. [. . .]

However, the most significant differences between mice and humans are not in the number of genes each carries but in the structure of genes and the activities of their protein products. Gene for gene, we are very similar to mice. What really matters is that subtle changes accumulated in each of the approximately 25,000 genes add together to make quite different organisms.

Making Thor or Galactus similar to a mouse takes the majesty and mystery out of a god. Galactus is an example of how conflicting approaches to the character have ruined him over time. Some want to write him as an old humanoid who eats planets; others see him as a cosmic force, between Death and Eternity. If Galactus can be evolved or devolved, he’s not a cosmic force.

The stories about Marvel characters would work much better if the various gods and cosmic beings wee on separate planes of existence, unreachable by humans, and someone couldn’t say, “Ha! I took away your power source. You’re not a god anymore!”


One of my fears with comics these days is that most writers have forgotten how to write superheroes. Oh they get the “super” part right, but not the “hero” part. The characters win most of their battles, but often too late to save some people from their (increasingly disgusting) foes, and then angst about it (or other, less important things) for a long time. I’m not saying that’s not a valid story, or that no one should enjoy it; I’m saying that’s NOT a superhero story, no matter how many characters in goofy outfits it has. The whole point of superheroes is to both awe us and make us fell good. To see the diabolical mastermind not just have his master plan ruined by the wily hero but to have his “humanity sucks” speech thrown right back onto his face. Just as Horror is about getting scared, Superheroes are about forgetting reality for a while and just enjoy seeing the Good Guys always win.

So while I don’t mind the Watchmen or Ultimate Marvels out there, I just wonder why they don’t make more comics about real heroism for those of us who want them. After all if you want to make money selling comics trying to serve as many audiences as possible is for the best. Which is why I thank Marvel for giving us back the Heroic Age. May their example be followed.

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