Hercules: The Turkey Day Wars

Happy Thanksgiving readers and friends, and welcome back to another Rotten Ink Turkey Day update all about the one and only mighty hero of Greece, the slayer of the Nemean Lion, the pride of Olympus and the hero who has been a main stay in culture and media as he has muscled his way into books, movies, TV, comics and video games. Of course I am talking about Hercules! Writing about Herc on this holiday as truly become something I look forward to doing; this sword and sandal hero was always one of my favorites growing up as his labors and adventures always captivated me. So while your turkey or ham is cooking and those potatoes are waiting to be mashed, let’s take another turkey day adventure with the one and only Hercules and this time the company who has brought us this adventure is Radical. So sit back, hit mute on the football game and get ready to spend some quality time with Herc and me here at Rotten Ink!

As I am sure you readers know what I am about to say and it may come as no shock, but I am going to say it anyway: I am a fan of the legend of Hercules from the myth all the way to cinema and have always enjoyed the fact you could take this hero and place him in any situation and watch as he saves the day. I mean think about classic style films “Hercules Against The Moon Men” and “Hercules Against The Mongols” that took our hero out of his normal settings and had him battle people and things not from his era.  Somehow, they just worked. But one of the biggest adventures Hercules has ever had was from the myth and would be his 12 Labors. Ever since I was a kid, one of my favorites of his 12 Labors was when he took on the Nemean Lion, a true battle of man and beast. The Nemean Lion was a massive beast that had super sharp claws and his skin could not be pierced by weapons. He tormented the people of Nemea and was rumored to been created by Typhon and Echidna. King Eurystheus was in charge of giving Hercules his labors, and his first one was to kill Nemean Lion who was a super lion and who was said to be unkillable, Hercules started his journey by buying arrows and talking to locals about the location of the beast, and once he found its cave, he blocked one entrance and forced the lion to fight him in closed combat where he was able to nab the lion into a headlock and choke the life out of it. Once dead, Herc used the animal’s own claw to skin it and carried the dead animal back to the kingdom where he both amazed and scared the King who banned him that moment on from entering the Kingdom after his labors. Hercules would go on to wear the hide of the Nemean Lion as part of his armor. I am not sure why I like the first labor as much as I do….I am sure it has to do with the fact I have always liked lions and Hercules and having them fighting each other in a death match is pretty epic. I want to also say that The Nemean Lion, while dead in the mythology world, just might live again in the pages of Sparkle Comics, but you will have to wait and see how and what comic it comes back in. And I want to say this is just the start of Hercules’ Labors as we will be taking a bigger look at his labors on another update in the future.

In 2014 Radical Comics was able to have a movie made based on their Thracian Wars comic series thanks to Paramount Pictures who released it worldwide to the joy of modern sword and sandal fans. The film was directed by Brett Ratner and stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Hercules along with such actors as Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and Reece Ritchie and was a great action film with lots of Hercules moments of power…well sort of. The film is about Hercules and his friends creating a legend about himself that allows them to get paid in order to do amazing things like defeat the undefeatable and wage one man wars, all the while the story goes out about it being Hercules, when in fact it was he and his crew. But they soon find themselves being tested when one kingdom doesn’t buy into the stories, and Herc and his crew must fight for their lives. I really do like the twist in this film as it makes you wonder if Hercules really the son of Zeus or is it all made up in order to build his legacy, then at moments he is as great as he says he is…so I think it is really up to the viewer to decide. I saw the movie in the theater when released, and it was fantastic even making the # 5 spot on my “Matt Goes To The Movies 2014” update for Superhero Movies and was one I recommended to friends who ended up seeing it and enjoying it. Oddly enough, in 2014 another Hercules movie was in cinemas called “Legend Of Hercules.” While entertaining, it was not in the same league as this one. The film did poorly at the US box office only bringing in $72,688,614.00 on a budget of $100 million and was 46 over all at the cinema. But it did however bring in more than many other cult films released that year like “Purge: Anarchy”, “Robocop”, “Dracula Untold”, “Muppets Most Wanted”, “John Wick” and “Birdman” to name a few. So if you like Hercules films or just like fun action films starring The Rock, make sure to check this movie out!

So now that we have chatted a little about Hercules in myth as well as in modern cinema, I think it’s time we get to the comic review of the five issue mini series from Radical, because I am sure you are ready for some tasty thanksgiving dinner like I am! So let’s get into this one. I want to thank Mavericks Cards And Comics for pulling these comics for me when released. Yep, this is a comic mini series that I made sure to get when released as I worked for Mavericks at the time and had to check out a new Hercules book. I want to also remind you that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and you are looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So if you’re ready to join Hercules as he goes to war, we should get to the comic reviews.

Hercules The Thracian Wars # 1  **1/2
Released in 2008     Cover Price $1.00     Radical Comics     # 1 of 5

Iolaus and Meneus are traveling to a poor and sloppy kingdom on Amphiaraus’ promise of gold and victory as the young King has hired Hercules and his crew to bring Thrace back together by winning a war. But these barbarians of the Kingdom all take turns making fun of Hercules as well as his mother to try and get under the skin of Meneus and Iolaus before Herc arrives. But once Hercules and the rest of his crew show up, their words and mood changes as they see they truly are warriors and can back up their words and Hercules is a man with a loyal & brutal band of friends. But when Hercules is pushed too far by the words of one of the barbarian warriors, he is forced to kill him and orders his friends to kill every man and woman in the throne room and they do just that! Hercules, who was hired to bring Thrace together and train these barbarians to fight, became their Grim Reaper, as he delivered nothing but brutal death. After the slaughter Hercules and his men soon find out that the king and his guards were not the true King and his men as outside is the true King Coyts and his men looking well armed, trained and angry.

This first issue started out a little slow and was worrisome onwhether it would deliver a fun Hercules adventure, and by the end it turned into a bloodbath slaughter that would make Conan The Barbarian happy! The comic’s plot is this: Hercules and his crew are hired mercenaries who arrive at a terrible kingdom with a jerk King and a room full of drunken slobs that end up pushing the son of Zeus’ buttons that leads to them all getting slaughtered only for Hercules to find out he has been set up as the real King is outside with his massive army! Hercules is very cocky in this issue and partly lazy and is willing to start a war over being insulted. He also very much depends on his crew in order to win battles as well as scout the way of the land before he even arrives. I also like that he is wearing the hide of the Nemean Lion. His crew are loyal to Hercules and are amazing warriors who are brutal and all have their own weirdness from one having visions to another who is a cannibal. The fake King and his drunken goons are rude and crude and all find themselves very dead and have no skills when it comes to battle! While we barely see King Coyts in this issue, you can tell he is going to be one proud and strong fighter. The one thing that I liked in this comic is the fact that while Hercules is our main hero, he is also very arrogant and showcases that he is not fully a good guy. I also really like the fact that this comic is very bloody and had kills that would fit in most Horror Comics! The cover is very cool and very eye catching for fans of Sword and Sandal and Greek Mythology style comics. The interior artwork is done by Admira Wijaya and is pretty great and very fitting for this style of comic. So I will say the first issue is a great set up for this mini series and was a great way to try and bring Hercules back to the world of comic books. So with that let’s see how Herc and his crew deals with the army that is waiting for them at the end of this issue.

Hercules The Thracian Wars # 2  **1/2
Released in 2008     Cover Price $2.99     Radical Comics     # 2 of 5

Hercules and his crew stand their ground as King Coyts and his army order them all to stand down and follow him into the hall where Herc and them slaughtered all those people only to find that King Coyts set them up to test how brutal they were as fighters. Hercules and his crew have now gotten the jobs to train the soldiers for war and Coyts’ daughter seems to have taken a liking to Hercules, but our heroes also seem to be very on edge on this job they have taken as things just seem very odd. Plus the army’s general Sitaces seems to also to be keeping an eye of Hercules. After months of training, the army is ready for war and they decide that night to kill a young boy to appease their God, and this act sickens Hercules and his crew. Sitaces makes his army and Hercules attack small villages and slaughter all the people they come across, and finally right before the big battle, Sitaces must return to King Coyts and tell him of their victories and as he leaves, it’s clear Hercules and his people have been set up as they are attacked by a sky full of arrows!

In this issue Hercules and his band of warriors are paid lots of money, wine and good times in order to train an army of soldiers who are just brawlers, but along the way they soon find that this army are scum and they kill to bully and their general seems to have another mission and that’s to ride the world of them! Hercules in this issue is a great teacher of war and seems to be pleased with spending time with the King’s daughter as well as have the thrill of battle, but while enjoying it all, he also seems to be on edge and aware. We also get to know female warrior Atalanta who is a lesbian and has a love hate friendship with fellow member Meleager a warrior who was a ladies man and has fallen head over heels in love with her. Sitaces is a very bloodthirsty warrior in King Coyts’ army and rocks a wicked scarred face and seems to not value any human life. And as far as King Coyts, he is a man drive by ego who will do what ever it takes to be the ruler. I really like the ending of this one as hundreds of arrows are falling from the sky and could kill not only Hercules and his crew but also any of the army who have been left behind with them. This also makes you wonder if Sitaces set them up or if it the scouts did! The cover is great and eye catching for fans of Hercules and Sword and Sandal and the interior art by Admira Wijaya is great and fitting. Over all a great second issue and one that helps build up this adventure for Hercules. So with that let’s see how Hercules escapes this deathtrap.

Hercules The Thracian Wars # 3  **1/2
Released in 2008     Cover Price $2.99     Radical Comics     # 3 of 5

Hercules and his crew are like lambs to the slaughter as the enemy is all around them and they are stuck in a valley, but like all heroes Hercules pushes back and drives his enemies lead by Lord Rhesus back and now have them on the ropes. Hercules himself, while wanting to end the battle, is also very mad at one of his crew Tydeus, who is bloodthirsty and not listening to orders causing them to be at odds. Hercules and his crew now have Rhesus and his guards backed against a cliff, and it’s clear they are not going to just give up and push the fight until only Rhesus is left standing and instead of dying at the hands of Hercules flings himself off the cliff! As Hercules and his crew sit for a while, an arrow comes from nowhere and kills Meneus and this sets Hercules into a rage who rips the attacker apart with his bare hands. Once they bury their friend, they head back to King Coyts with a story of victory and also slightly accuse Sitaces for the set up, but it’s quickly smoothed over as Hercules goes off with the King’s daughter and a big feast is planned. Later that night after the feast Hercules sneaks up and hears King Coyts praying to his Gods in order to get the power to his newly trained army to attack Greece and Mount Olympus!

Man, this was one pickle that I was sure would leave Hercules injured, but instead sees him win against all odds and end a war with one brutal battle. This issue’s plot has Hercules and his crew being set up, and they must fight for their lives in order to escape the valley. Once they do so, they lose one of their own members to a sneak attack and return to employer only to learn he is a scumbag who wants to over throw Greece and kill Zeus on Mount Olympus! Hercules in this issues shows why he is a true iconic fighter as he does not stress over the attack and leads his group to a victory. He also shows he is pure power as he rips a man apart in a bloody gory rage! His crew are all great fighters and sadly their youngest member Meneus is killed with an arrow to the head and Tydeus is out of control and is a warrior who just enjoys killing and eating his victims! King Coyts and Sitaces are pure scum who both crave power and terror as they just used Hercules and his crew to train an army for them that they will in turn be used to attack them and their homelands! What I really like about this comic series is that while Hercules is our “hero,” he really is no hero and is just a demi-god doing bad things for others in order to get gold! I also like that his crew, while all warriors, do seem to care about each other, well all but Tydeus who cares about no one but himself even if the others watch out for him. The cover for this issue is great and the red brings out the wicked look of Hercules who clearly is in a rage for war. The interior art once more is done by Admira Wijaya and is good stuff. Over all this is another great issue in this mini series and makes me look forward to reading the final two issues.

Hercules The Thracian Wars # 4  ***
Released in 2008     Cover Price $2.99     Radical Comics     # 4 of 5

Hercules is talked out of attacking the King in the temple, and this is a bad thing as he finds the tracks of Hercules in the snow and places he and all his crew under arrest until he can figure out a way to kill them all. Hercules tries to use his charm on the King’s daughter but soon finds that she has been using him all along and spying for her father and for him escaping and plotting against the King, Hercules is taken and tortured by Sitaces who is taking joy in his evil deed! Sitaces admits that he has been with the King’s daughter and he was not the one who set them up, all the while he is whipping and burning Hercules’s flesh. But Hercules has had enough and with his power he breaks free and smashes and kills two guards as well as breaks the back of Sitaces and brings the dungeons walls down on top of him! Hercules then rushes to his crew, and they make their escape in a bloody fight that leaves King Coyts in a rage and wants all of them dead! Hercules and his friends regroup around a campfire and decide that they will not run to Greece, and they will bring the fight to Coyts as they want to bring him down.

Wow! This fourth issue is great and showcases just how badass Hercules is as he bashes, smashes and slaughters any and all who get in his way. In fact I would say that this is the best issue this far in the series and is action packed and had a real feeling of dread and danger as the issue’s plot has the King and his army holding and bullying Hercules and his friends until they have had enough and push back! I also like the fact that the King’s daughter was just a pawn in her dad’s game as she in real life hates Hercules and Greece and was only using him to get information. Hercules in the issue really has been pushed as not only does the King plan on attacking his homeland of Greece but he also has been used and now abused and this means war in his eyes. His crew are also being treated like scum and are forced to stay inside a building and are not being feed and bullied into not having weapons and are all marked for death. King Coyts is a ruler who has used and abused his way into being even more powerful and is wanting to bring down Greece and Zeus as he has zero respect for those Gods. His daughter as well is scum as she uses sex in order to try and manipulate her target. And Sitaces the army leader is sadistic and gets what he deserves as he is broken and crushed leaving him a none factor now in the coming blood battle. This issue is filled with lots of action and lots of blood and feels like a true Sword And Sandal film from the 60’s with added modern style gore. Plus I really like the cliffhanger of Hercules and friends gearing up for a battle that they are the underdogs in, but they show no fear in the face of death. The cover is great and Admira Wijaya’s interior art is as always solid. Over all this issue is a great one to build up to the final in the mini series and is making me really looking forward to see how this adventure comes to an end.

Hercules The Thracian Wars # 5  **1/2
Released in 2008     Cover Price $2.99     Radical Comics     # 5 of 5

Hercules and his crew sneak back in the kingdom and start their slaughter and take out many of the guards by setting a fire in their quarters while they sleep. Once inside the castle, Hercules and his friends kill even more guards and even ram a spear into the King’s Daughter! King Coyts sees that his days are numbered and runs to make his escape as Hercules and friends follow him into a chamber of mazes and traps. But after dodging traps and almost capturing the evil King, Hercules and his crew find themselves trapped in the chamber as Coyts escapes….into the waiting ax of Tydeus who beheads the King and will dine on his brain after he frees his friends. Once free Hercules and pals find the gold room and steal all they can carry and as they leave the castle, they are greeted by Rhesus who they thought was dead and now has a new army and allows Hercules and them to leave with their lives, but not the gold! In the end Hercules and some of his friends sail away on a new adventure as Tydeus and others go their own way ending The Thracian War.

Hercules and his friends have gotten revenge after being set up and have stopped an attack on Greece but as always walked away empty handed when it comes to being paid for training an army to fight. So everything they did in this war really only caused death to people and only made them look like heels in the eyes of the people who witnessed their slaughter and training of a tyrant’s army. Hercules in this issue really just wants to end the life of King Coyts and his daughter and wants to stop the planned attack on Greece and while he does get to stop the act of war and gets to kill the daughter of his enemy, he is sadly not the one who gets to kill King Coyts. That honor went to Tydeus who is crazy and is a berserker when it comes to attacking and is really the most scummy of all of Herc’s teammates and by all accounts is just a cold blooded murderer. King Coyts is not only scum but also a coward who runs when it comes to battle and the odds are not in his favor. His daughter, on the other hand is a fighter and does not die without putting up a fight. The issue while bloody and filled with action seems to be more of a fast paced issue and the action seems to go by way too fast. But with that said, I will say that I do think Radical Comics really does know how to make a good comic mini series based on Hercules and writer Steve Moore shows he really does understand the world of Sword And Sandal. Plus the art by Admire Wijaya is very fitting and is perfect for this style of comic books. The cover for this issue I have is also very eye catching and reminds me of Frank Frazetta. Over all this is a great mini series and was an enjoyable read and fun review this Thanksgiving update, and I would recommend if you like Hercules to check this series out. Below is some artwork from this series so you can see the style of Wijaya.

Thanks once again for spending a part of your Thanksgiving holiday with me here at Rotten Ink as I am sure you’re much like me and are very much looking forward to diving into a tasty dinner and a chatting with family and loved ones. So next year, meet here again and we will once more talk about Hercules and cover another comic adventure of his! But to wrap this up as mashed potatoes are calling my name, make sure to spend some time with your loved ones as the Christmas season is just around the corner. Oh and I must also share with you that my next update will be a “From Horror Movie To Horror Comic” update, and we will be traveling to Skull Island to once more visit Kong! So until next time, read a comic or three, eat a second plate of food and as always support your local Horror Host. See you all back for another tour of Skull Island on our next update.

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