Avengers Assemble…We’re Needed

Welcome back, True Rotten Ink-lievers!  Juliet here, on this momentous occasion where we’ll be covering one of the greatest team-ups to grace both the page and the screen. I’m talking about Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, John Steed and Emma Peel.  That’s right, I’m joining you to talk about The Avengers….but not those Avengers. We’ll be looking at the spies played by John Macnee and Diana Rigg in the 1960s British television show, The Avengers, and their 2012-13 comic book series from Boom Studios.  So grab a bowler hat and a stiff drink, readers, we’re needed.

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Although knowledge of the show is more widespread these days, there are many people that don’t realize that the Avengers existed both before and after the Emma Peel years.  The show premiered in 1961 from the English ABC (Associated British Corporation), focusing on the espionage adventures of Dr. David Keel with Patrick Macnee’s John Steed showing up in the first episode offering his assistance.  Steed would remain in the assistant’s role for all of series one, which was cut short due to an Actor’s Equity strike. When production resumed in 1962, Steed was now the focus of the show partnering briefly with Dr. Martin King and Venus Smith and more permanently with Cathy Gale, played by Honor Blackman.  It was during this time that the show as we know and love it really took shape: Steed’s look was established as the bowler-wearing English gentleman spy, while Cathy donned leather catsuits, which Emma Peel would also adopt along with the latest in mod fashion.

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In 1965, the show was sold to the American Broadcasting Company (also ABC) and became one of the first British shows on to air on American television. The show moved from shooting on videotape to 35mm film, and in October, Diana Rigg debuted as Steed’s new partner Emma Peel.  We’ll discuss more about Steed and Peel momentarily, but for now let’s focus on the show itself. Along with Emma Peel, this new era of the Avengers introduced science fiction, fantasy and the occasional fetishistic elements to the plot. With the fifth series (aka season since we’re talking about British TV) in 1966, the show began shooting in color.  This was also the year that several of the show’s signature elements were introduced.

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Two of the best known elements that in truth only lasted for 15 episodes, are “Mrs. Peel, we’re needed” and the “Steed does/Emma does” tags, both appearing at the start of an episode after of course the murder or inciting incident for the case had been established. We’d see Emma doing something ordinary. She’d then receive or encounter the message “Mrs. Peel, we’re needed” at which time Steed would appear from seemingly nowhere and their adventure would begin.  The tag would show up under the episode title and give a comedic description of each character’s actions during the episode. For example, in “The Winged Avenger,” the tag is, “Steed Goes Birdwatching. Emma Does a Comic Strip”

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Diana Rigg left the show in 1967, gone was Emma Peel and gone were the sci-fi/fantasy elements with her.  The producers opted to return to the more realistic spy adventures that viewers had seen in the Cathy Gale era, and this time Steed’s partner was Tara King, played by Linda Thorson.  This sixth series would also introduce the characters of Mother and Father who would be central characters in the 1998 movie remake of the Avengers (more on that further down). But series 6 was to be the last as, although the show was popular in the UK and Europe, in the U.S. it was airing opposite the then number 1 show in the country Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In and just couldn’t compete.  When the show cancelled in the U.S., the finances became unsustainable and Avengers ceased production in May 1969.

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Now that we’ve talked about the history of the show, let’s get into the characters and the people who portrayed them.  Born of a noble family and having served in the RAF in WWII (like his portrayer Patrick Macnee), John Steed is an agent in an unnamed British intelligence agency that some claim exists in the same universe/canon as James Bond.  In his initial appearances in Avengers, Steed was less refined than the character we’d come to know and love, but fairly quickly, he adopted the signature suave look of a three-piece suit, bowler hat, and umbrella, which would become his signature look. Steed is both sassy and sauve, and although he can be playful, when the time comes, he’s an ace spy and is well verse in hand to hand combat and swordsmanship. The role of Steed came around at the precise right time for actor Patrick Macnee.  After serving in WWII for England, he began his acting career in Canada with smaller roles but didn’t meet with much success. By the late 1950s, he was smoking and drinking to excess and had nearly given up on acting opting to produce documentaries when he was offered the role of John Steed, which he would play until 1969. Macnee helped establish the character’s look and personality, insisting, for example, that Steed never use a gun, in part because of the horrors that Macnee had witnessed in WWII.  He wrote two novels based on The Avengers and later hosted a documentary about the show. Macnee would go on to be in a James Bond film, Magnum P.I., The Howling and more, including a cameo in the 1998 Avengers remake (I promise, we’re getting there). Patrick Macnee died in June of 2015 at the age of 93.

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Dame Diana Rigg made her stage debut in 1957 and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1959.  When Elizabeth Shepherd, originally slated to play Emma Peel, left the production, Rigg auditioned for the role having never seen The Avengers.  She was an instant star, despite making very little money for her work on the show, which is what ultimately drove her to leave after two years. Rigg went on to star in both film and television roles, including a stint hosting Mystery on PBS (taking over for Vincent Price), and she continued her work on stage. More recently, she’s captivated a new generation of TV viewers as Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones.  As for Rigg’s most iconic role, Emma Peel is a great mix of brains, battle-readiness, and sex appeal. She’s an accomplished scientist and martial artist who dabbles in many other fields, especially when it aids her investigations with Steed. Born Emma Knight, Mrs. Peel’s husband Peter is a pilot whose plane went down in the Amazon rainforest prior to her work with Steed. Peter was presumed dead for many years, returning as a plot device to write Emma off the show and introduce Tara King when Diana Rigg decided to move on.  Though the leather catsuits were introduced in the Cathy Gale era of Avengers, they became Emma Peel’s signature look along with the mod styles of the day. A quick wit with a silver tongue, Emma was the perfect verbal match for Steed, and their back and forth was part of what made the show such a joy to watch.

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I first encountered The Avengers on VHS at my local library.  I was lucky enough to grow up with two awesome libraries close by, one of which had an amazing selection of science fiction paperbacks and the other sported any amazing VHS selection, featuring a lot of British television and foreign and classic films. In the same way I have an affection for both really good and really cheesy science fiction, I adore both really good and really cheesy spy movies and TV shows, and I feel like The Avengers fall right in the middle.  It’s as classic as James Bond, but has an entirely different feel that’s so completely of its era. In the last five or six years, I’ve managed to watch the entire Emma Peel run of the show on DVD thanks to Matt, who bought me the Emma Peel Megaset after we found it at Half Price Books. In the same spirit as ST:TNG and the X-Files, I have certain favorite episodes that I go back to again and again, but I can also watch the series as a whole all over again and enjoy it, securing The Avengers’ spot among my all-time favorite TV shows.

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In 1998, Warner Brothers and director Jeremiah Chechik (of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation fame) sought to revive Steed and Mrs. Peel for a new generation on the big screen.  The film, simply titled The Avengers starred Ralph Fiennes as John Steed, Uma Thurman as Emma Peel and Sean Connery as weather obsessed villain Sir August de Wynter. Rumor has it that Warner refused to pre-screen the film for reviewers to prevent negative reviews after test screenings prompted the studio to cut it from 115-minute to 89 minutes, removing key plot elements.  An original cut of the movie has never emerged, though Jeremiah Chechik has offered Warner Brothers a director’s cut for free. The movie as it stands is universally regarded as one of the worst movies ever, but I have to tell you something, dear readers: I love it. Okay, okay, it’s by no means a cinematic masterpiece, but I see the campy potential in the look and feel. Plus, it came out at a time in my life where I was actively seeking out very cheesy spy films and novels, the more bizarre, the better….and this one is certainly bizarre.  To parrot Stefon from SNL, this movie has everything: Uma Thurman with a bad English accent, giant teddy bears, a weather device, human sized hamster balls, Patrick Macnee as the Invisible Man, Eddie Izzard. If you have an open heart for utterly ridiculous trash, give it a try. It has little to nothing to do with the original TV series, but it’s silly fun if you’re up for that sort of thing.

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In terms of merchandise for the TV show, the modern fan can enjoy the series on DVD as well as a plethora of Steed and Mrs. Peel-themed goodies on sites like Etsy.  More classic gear includes trading cards, and most interesting, paperback books. The first novel, simply titled The Avengers and written by Douglas Enefer, was published by Consul Books in 1963.  It’s the only book of the original run to feature Cathy Gale. Many novels featuring Emma Peel and Tara King would follow in the UK and US, including several co-written by Patrick Macnee who was one of the first actors to write licensed spin-off fiction of their own shows.

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The Avengers first made it to comics in the U.K. as comic strips in TV listing magazines (similar to the US’ TV Guide).  Their first American outing was a 1968 collection of these strips released by Gold Key called John Steed Emma Peel because, of course, Marvel made it impossible for them to release a comic called The Avengers. In 1990 Eclipse released a three issue series called Steed and Mrs. Peel with script by Grant Morrison and art by Ian Gibson.  Boom Studios would re-release that series in early 2012. For our purposes, however, we’ll be covering the 2012-13 Steed and Mrs. Peel series from Boom Studios, written Mark Waid and Caleb Monroe. Before we begin our adventure, I must remind you that here at Rotten Ink, we grade comics on a 1-4 star scale and look for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s get started, dear reader, we’re needed.

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #0  *** 1/2
Released in 2012     Cover Pice $3.99    Boom Studios    #0 of 11

Steed and Mrs. Peel investigate the mysterious of Agent Colin Whitcomb. Although the cause of death is straight forward (he was shot pointe blank), the strange part is that the missing agent has aged significantly.  Their only clue is the scent of a particular cheap perfume on Whitcomb’s body, sending the daring duo to the Hellfire Club, or rather the “New Hellfire Club” to investigate. There they meet the future obsessed Cartney who leads Steed into a fight with Father Time.  Meanwhile Emma outwits Futura, the automotan, and dons her outfit as a disguise to locate the missing Steed. Steed awakens older and grayer discovering that it’s no longer 1966, but the year 2000, and that he’s now a part of the National Archives, having served as an agent of much acclaim.  But of course Steed is on to the true plot of the Hellfire Club, using an aging serum to fool intelligence British agents. With Emma’s expert martial arts skills, the baddies, which include their old Hellfire nemesis Cartney, are defeated. With the aging serum’s effects wearing off, Steed treats Mrs. Peel to a concert.

When I first heard that Boom Studios would be doing a comic based on The Avengers, I was nervous to say the least.  The charm of the show is so particular – there’s a formula to the stories, but moreover the way Patrick MacNee and Diana Rigg portrayed the relationship between Steed and Peel is so very specific.  I was hopeful once I saw that Mark Waid was writing, and he did not disappoint. This introductory issue was everything I had hoped for – it felt right at home in the universe of the show, teasing a time jump but keeping things firmly in the 1960s.  Longtime fans of the show got recollections of the Hellfire Club (**find out the name of this episode) and Emma’s spiked collar, cybermen (who also appeared in Doctor Who), the familiar “We’re Needed” start to the action. Most importantly, the dialogue was perfect.  I could hear MacNee and Rigg’s voices in my head as I was reading. Steve Bryant’s art is a good balance of realistic and stylistic and captures both the feel of the 1960s and the action well. I was pleasantly surprised by this one when I first read it in 2012, and 7 years later, it’s still a great read.

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #1  ***
Released in 2012     Cover Pice $3.99    Boom Studios    #1 of 11

Masked men infiltrate a secluded base and launch a missile attack on London.  Steed and Mrs. Peel watch the carnage, along with Lord Bailey, in an underground bunker, but just as everyone has a moment to absorb what’s just happened, an alert sounds and our heroes leap to action.  A fire in the bunker forces Emma and a fellow scientist to lead everyone in the bunker topside, but once there, Mrs. Peel discovers something unusual. Although London is leveled and their instruments are showing radiation, there’s no effect on the soil or water.  There’s no time to question it further, however, because their fellow survivors spot a figure in the distance rapidly coming towards the group. The figure is some sort of mutated creature, and it’s not alone. Steed and Mrs. Peel battle the horde of monsters, and the book ends with them getting a vital assist from none other than the Hellfire Club.

This proper first issue of Steed and Mrs. Peel begins with action that’s sustained through the book.  Our heroes seem to be in some kind of post-apocalyptic disaster scenario, which is such a perfect melding of Cold War-era spy show sensibility and our modern obsession with post-apocalyptic stories (I see you, The Walking Dead and your many and varied progeny).  The action is such that we don’t get a lot of information about what’s happened other than London has apparently been nuked, and I like that because we’ll get to discover what’s happening along with Emma and Steed. The dialogue between the two is once again spot on thanks to the team up of Mark Waid and Caleb Monroe, and the artwork, this time from Will Sliney, is really great, classic looking comic style that lends itself to both action and dialogue well.  I know you’re probably wondering, like me, what the Hellfire Club is doing there and what they do or don’t have to do with this disaster so let’s get to the next issue.

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #2 ***
Released in 2012     Cover Pice $3.99     Boom Studios    #2 of 11

Steed, Mrs. Peel, and the British MPs they were previously sheltering with are now all guests of the Hellfire Club in their lavish bunker.  Although most of the other guests seem pretty comfortable, Steed and Emma are worried that they’ve not seen Lord Bailey, General Crampton or Mr. Stanton, the other scientist, since arriving. Although our heroes don’t yet know it, we see the general being brainwashed by a member of the Hellfire Club.  She and her brother, both the offspring of Cartney, chat a bit about how Steed and Mrs. Peel will of course be the hardest to break but it’s worth it get revenge for father. Steed and Mrs. Peel work on a plan over a game of chess. Emma goes to talk to Miss Cartney about the missing general, and gets attacked.  Later Steed stumbles into another brainwashing session and is also taken out, but when he awakens, it’s revealed that his attacker was Mrs. Peel, decked out in a familiar outfit, her Hellfire Club leather and spiked collar.

More of the mystery is unraveled and new twists appear in the second issue of this story arc.  While it’s no shock that the Hellfire Club is up to no good, what their goals are and who the mysterious Dirigent is remain a mystery. Also a mystery is whether or not this story ties in some way to the Cartney time-travel story in issue #0.  I like that we don’t know (and I genuinely don’t remember if it does from my first reading of this series seven years ago). As with issue #0, I love that this story is taking elements directly from the series and expanding them on the page, especially since they’re using one of my favorite plot elements that the Avengers shares with X-men: the Hellfire Club.  Is Emma once again brainwashed or she pretending to gain the trust of the Club? Onward to Issue #3, we’re needed.

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #3 ***
Released in 2012     Cover Pice $3.99    Boom Studios    #3 of 11

Steed is hopeful that the leather-clad Mrs. Peel is simply undercover, but alas, that’s not the case as she sends him through a wall behind which the younger Cartney is enjoying his lavish Hellfire existence. Steed snaps Mrs. Peel out of her brainwashed state using some trigger words they had developed “after the first few times someone tried this.” After Emma knocks her brother out, Miss Cartney arrives with her henchmen leading Steed and Mrs. Peel to flee.  They commandeer a motorcycle (and a new outfit for Emma) and lead the Hellfire Club on a chase into the nuked out wasteland. After fighting hand to hand with Miss Cartney, Emma shoots a flare, signaling the British Air Force, who she and Steed had secretly been in contact with after figuring out that the nuclear attack was a hoax and they the MPs had been kidnapped and taken to the South China Sea. Steed and Mrs. Peel sail off into the sunset, and back at the Hellfire Club the Cartney brother plots his next move.

Thus concludes the first story arc in Steed and Mrs. Peel…sort of.  Although they’ve solved the mystery of the fake nuclear blast and London’s destruction, something tells me that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Hellfire Club in the least.  This one is the last issue for which Mark Waid did the story and Will Sliney the art, but luckily scriptwriter Caleb Monroe sticks around for the rest of the series. There’s a temptation to say that the story wrapped up too quickly, but honestly it felt right in line with the TV show, and the pacing of these three issues felt like the pacing of the hour-long episodes.  So what’s next for Steed and Mrs. Peel? Let’s find out!

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #4 ** 1/2
Released in 2012     Cover Pice $3.99    Boom Studios    #4 of 11

Steed and Mrs. Peel have been invited to a ball. In full fancy dress, they, along with many British dignitaries attend the masked party of author Lloyd Cushing.  As part of the evening’s entertainment, they meet Mr. Blackwell, an eccentric conductor accompanied by his two Butoh dancers. But a party can never be just that for our two heroes as they’re soon called upon to investigate the murder of a man who turns out to the the real Mr. Blackwell.  Trading her ball gown for more action oriented clothes, Emma joins Steed in the ballroom where all of the guests are now missing. Steed tracks them outside where the Butoh dancers are to blame for the mass exodus. Meanwhile Emma confronts the imposter conductor, who turns out to be the Hellfire Club’s hypnotist Dirigent from their prior island adventure.  Dirigent explains that he can manipulate high frequency sound to bend people to his will, but he’s no match for Emma. As Steed and Mrs. Peel continue their previously interrupted dance, we zoom out, all the way to out space where a satellite baring the Hellfire Club logo looms over us all.

Upon first glance, the is your typical post-story arc issue, a one-shot where the characters get to have a minor adventure and perhaps some fun before the next big thing.  But actually, this issue, although basically a one-shot, continues our Hellfire Club storyline and presumably is going to bridge the prior arc with the one to come in Issue #5.  Although this one has significantly less action than the last few issues, there are some really nice things happening in the dialogue, both between Steed and Peel and among the other characters.  I feel like this was perhaps Caleb Monroe’s chance to provide some of his analysis on the original show and characters, and as I fan, I really enjoyed reading it. Yasmin Liang takes over on artist duties for this issue, and although she doesn’t capture Steed and Peel’s expressions as perfectly as Will Sliney did, she’s a great addition to this story, and I’m excited to see how she tackles the action scenes that are surely coming in the next book.  So let’s get to it!

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #5  **
Released in 2013     Cover Pice $3.99     Boom Studios    #5 of 11

The fallout from last issue’s ballroom party gone awry continues as Steed and Mrs. Peel find out that his friend Trevor Seabrook has been arrested for a theft related to his wife’s disappearance from the party. The curious part is that the kidnappers tasked Seabrook with stealing a seemingly empty jar, but the truth is the jar contains something that has regenerative properties, which is of course of interest to the Hellfire Club’s Dr. Peter Glass, previously presumed to be dead.  Seabrook’s wife is returned, Steed and Mrs. Peel begin to piece things together, and Glass unveils a special piece of tech as this issue ends.

The interesting thing about this issue is that both everything and nothing happens, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like the prior issue, this one was low on the action but high on information that’s obviously leading to the next chapter in the Hellfire Club’s evil plans that Steed and Mrs. Peel are constantly working to unravel.  

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #6 **
Released in 2013     Cover Pice $3.99    Boom Studios    #6 of 11

Through a flashback and conversation, Steed and Mrs. Peel reflect on the aforementioned Dr. Glass and his death, for which Steed was an eyewitness.  Seabrook’s wife is awake but only repeating the words “bleeding heart” so Steed and Emma decide to regroup. On the way, however, Emma is tricked by Glass’ assistant Jamie and kidnapped.  Meanwhile, Steed is nearly ambushed when inquiring about Seabrook’s stolen empty jar, but soon our heroes are reunited in Glass’ lair where it’s revealed that the mad doctor survived his untimely death using special goggles sported by three versions of Jamie that allow him to time travel. As Glass is apprehended, one of the Jamie’s slips away to inform someone on the other end of a video camera that this phase of the plan has failed.  Steed and Mrs. Peel end our issue reflecting on the practicality of time travel over a drink as a rocket launches on the horizon.

One of the things that I really love about this series is the layered story.  Each arc leads to another and contributes to a larger story. This is especially interesting because the show generally did not do this, but I wish it had.  All of that said, this wasn’t the most exciting arc. Granted, this issue had more action than the prior two, but the payout felt a bit weak. Although thinking of it in the grand scheme of a larger story makes even a weak arc feel important.  So let’s get to the next one, and hopefully we’ll find out who Jamie was talking to and what dastardly plans they have in store for Steed and Mrs. Peel.

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #7  ***
Released in 2013     Cover Pice $3.99    Boom Studios    #7 of 11

Steed and Mrs. Peel are sent to a small Welsh mining town to investigate an unprecedented wave of suicides. Posing as scientists (though Steed is the only one posing, as he points out), they begin their investigation by consulting with Dr. Mortimor, a psychologist specializing in suicide.  After tea with Moritmor, our duo walks back to the inn where they’re staying, taking the scenic route to stop by some of the scenes of the some of the crimes. On a seaside cliff where several people fell to their deaths, both Steed and Emma seem to lose control of themselves and nearly jump off the cliff, the other stopping them just in time. They of course realize that Dr. Mortimor and his terrible tea is to blame.  The evil doctor explains that he’s not a murder, merely an experimenter in the weaponization of suicide. Steed, Mrs. Peel and the gathering crowd of villagers are less convinced of this excuse.

What a breath of fresh air after that slightly lackluster last arc!  Although the story was a bit predictable, it shone because of both the art (great panel structure in this one!) and the writing.  We got a lot of great little moments of Steed and Emma quipping back and forth while working to solve the mystery, and these moments are golden.  I didn’t realize how much of this was missing from the prior issue until I read this one. The chemistry between them, both in the dialogue and the artwork, was so spot on, and this definitely felt like an episode of the show that I would have loved. With that, let’s see what our next issue has in store!

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #8  **1/2
Released in 2013     Cover Pice $3.99    Boom Studios    #8 of 11

The Cartney family is back!  Steed and Emma’s beachside holiday is interrupted with the news that Joan Cartney has been broken out of jail by a strange silver man.  While Steed and Emma investigate, knowing there’s more to this than meets the eye, the Cartney siblings are reunited with their father who is alive, but not well. Donning costumes to make them look like Steed and Emma, the younger Cartneys set out to fulfill their mission of killing our heroes by blowing up Steed’s flat, while their father undergoes a procedure to rejuvenate his body…as a Cybernaut.

With last issue’s palate-cleanser, I’m ready to dive into a new story arc, and this one sets up our story nicely.  It’s no surprise that the Cartney’s are back, and we learn that it was, indeed, them that Jamie was contacting in Issue #6.  As we set up our villain’s story, we once again get really cozy fun interactions between Steed and Peel, making me thinking that writer Caleb Monroe has gotten into the same comfort zone that Mark Waid began the series with.  I’m eager to see where the Cybernaut story is going so let’s get to the next issue!

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #9  ***
Released in 2013     Cover Pice $3.99    Boom Studios    #9 of 11

While Cybernaut Cartney shops for a suit, his children learn that even a bomb can’t take down Steed and Mrs. Peel.  The siblings’ bickering about what went wrong is interrupted when their intended victims confront them, and quickly things turn into a street fight (with swords!). The Cartneys get away, but of course that was the plan as Steed, harkening to the original Cybernauts TV episode, plans a transponder his umbrella which he allows them to escape with.  After a quick wardrobe change, Steed and Mrs. Peel head to the Hellfire Club’s base of operations where they spy General Seabrook smuggling army tech to the enemy. Although they’re able to sneak in undetected, Cybernaut Cartney uses his super strength to bust through a wall and grab our heroes.

With the last issue being mostly set up for the new story, I was worried this one would be more of the same.  But happily, this issue is heavily on wonderfully drawn action with some great dialogue to accompany it. The way the panels mimic the style in which the show was shot is a really nice touch and combined with the coloring gives the book such a great retro feel.  My only concern moving forward is that there are only two more issues, and I honestly can’t remember if the book ends at the conclusion of an arc or if we’re going to be left hanging. I guess there’s no way to find out until we get to the next issue….

AvengersComic10Steed and Mrs. Peel #10  ***
Released in 2013     Cover Pice $3.99    Boom Studios    #10 of 11

Cybernaut Cartney is about to kill our heroes but Emma appeals to the villain’s hedonistic side, saying that if he kills them now, it’s all over. This is much to Joan’s chagrin as Steed and Mrs. Peel have been a thorn in her side for far too long, but father knows best…..only Cartney isn’t really her father. Joan and her brother discover documents in Cartney’s desk revealing that they’re a young married couple who went missing and were subsequently brainwashed by Cartney in what he calls, “my greatest practical joke of them all.” After her husband (formerly her brother) is killed by Cartney, Joan sneaks back to the prison to get help from a former ally.  Meanwhile Jamie is torturing Steed in the Hellfire Club dungeon forcing Emma to strike a bargain with Cartney – Steed’s life for her hand in marriage. The issue ends with Cartney presenting Emma to the rest of the Club as his fiance and the new Queen of Silver.

This issue has so much going on!  The reveal about the Cartney siblings (or rather the not Cartney, non-siblings) was really great.  I truly didn’t see that coming, and in addition to being a great twist, it packed an emotional punch.  Cartney’s line about this being “my greatest practical joke of them all” was an amazing touch. In this issue we get more about Cartney’s weird obsession with Emma, which is framed in both flashbacks and present moments, something I like because it really gives the reader the sense that Cartney is an absolutely twisted villain.  I also loved the touch of the Silver Court being introduced to the Hellfire Club. But my concern from last issues remains; there is a lot to resolve in one issue to wrap up both the arc and the series. I suppose the only way to know how that works out, however, it to read on.

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Steed and Mrs. Peel #11 ***
Released in 2013     Cover Pice $3.99   Boom Studios    #11 of 11

We open in a church where Cybernaut Cartney stands at the altar with a silver bedecked Mrs. Peel.  The officiant asks if there are any objections to the union, and right on cue, John Steed drives his car through the window of the church.  He shouts Emma’s trigger words, but she doesn’t need to be un-brainwashed this time, she was merely buying time for Steed. While a battle ensues in the church, Joan sneaks into the room containing John’s human body that’s feeding the Cybernaut and gives him the brainwashing serum, prompting the Cybernaut to seek out its human body to destroy it. Emma and Steed follow, and Emma uses the aging serum from all the way back in issue zero to prevent the Cybernaut from destroying human Cartney.  But alas, he dies shortly thereafter anyway. The issue ends with Joan escaping to make a better life, and Emma and Steed watching the sun set and reflecting on this latest chapter in their adventures together.

This issue does a pretty good job of wrapping things up.  Yes, the Steed crashing the wedding scene is ridiculous, but it fits the show quite well.  I really liked that the aging serum from issue 0 comes back into play, but the sequence of Cartney dying anyway was slightly confusing.  The ending with Steed and Emma watching the sunset was quite lovely, and I do like that the Hellfire Club story wasn’t so final that they can’t come back again in some future series.  Speaking of future series, Boom Studios would try for another arc in 2014 called Steed and Mrs. Peel: We’re Needed, but alas, what was to be a six issue series only made it three, and quite honestly those issues didn’t hold a candle to this series. Avengers22

Part of the reason I chose to cover this particular comic version of The Avengers is that, in my opinion, it’s the most faithful to the spirit of the show, and despite a few missteps, uses the structure of comics to create an ongoing story in a way that the show didn’t back in the 1960s (though I suspect a modern rendering would).  For our next update, we’ll be leaving the world of spies, but staying in the 1960s as Matt kicks of a month of Kaiju updates in anticipation of Godzilla: King of the Monsters with a look at Reptilicus. In the meantime, read a comic or three, and support your local horror host!

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American Hero: Captain America

It’s that time of the year again, when we as a nation celebrate our independence by grilling out meat and setting off fireworks while hanging out with family and friends, sharing a good drink and fun stories. That’s right, it’s July 4th and here at Rotten Ink that means I am going to take a look at an American themed comic book hero, and this year I decided not to mess around and go straight to covering the one and only Captain America! We will be talking about his first issue and his very early history before Marvel owned his rights and he was being published by Timely Comics. As always, I will try my best to make this update go by super fast as I know that many of you like myself have cookouts and fireworks in your future for tonight. And I will say that while this is my first time talking about Captain America, it will not be the last time I talk about this Star Spangled Avenger! So with America pride at a fever pitch this holiday, it’s my great honor to bring to you this American Icon Captain America update!

In 1940, Joe Simon was messing around with a new idea for a comic book war hero and doodled a character he loosely was calling “Super American,” but after thinking about the name of this new character he decided that the world of comics had so many Supers and that’s when he came up with the name Captain America! Then he came up with the character’s sidekick Bucky who was named after his friend who was a basketball star in his high school. After pitching it to Martin Goodman, who was the publisher of Timely Comics who later would become Marvel Comics, the comic series was green lit and went into a quick deadline production. Simon brought on his long time friend and calibrator Jack Kirby to do the art as well as really design and bring the character to life. Simon and Kirby would add in their views about the horrors of what the Nazis were doing at the time, and it was their way of taking a stand. Also brought on board to help bring Captain America alive was Al Liederman who inked, and Howard Ferguson did the lettering. The first issue was released on March 1941 and was a hit with comic readers of the time and became the top American themed superhero of the time, a title he still holds to this very day. The comic became one of the biggest comics and printed media of its time showing that the American people needed a superhero like Captain America. During this time MLJ was upset as they felt that Captain America’s shield looked too much like the symbol on used on the chest of their patriotic hero The Shield and this caused Simon and Kirby to change Cap’s shield to look more round. This of course became iconic to the character’s look. The character would run for many years and even tried his best to stick around after superheroes fell out of favor with comic book readers. During this time he created a team called the All-Winners Squad and even dated a superheroine named Golden Girl. But while they tried to save Captain America from the hero crash by adding in elements of Horror, Romance and Science Fiction, his time in comics came to an end in 1954. But that was just the early days as Captain America was destined to be brought back to comics thanks to Marvel…but that’s for another update.

Steve Rogers was a young man who had a hard life as by the time he was out of high school he had lost both his father and mother and wanted nothing more than to join the army and join the fight against the Nazis in World War II. But due to his small size and health issues, he was not accepted, but was selected to be apart of a secret project called “Operation: Rebirth” lead by Professor Erskine. This project involved a super solider serum that would turn a man into a perfect physical super solider and the key to win the war. Steve takes the serum and takes blasts from a vita-ray machine turning him into a true solider of super nature, but Steve would be the only super solider made as the Nazi’s sent a spy who kills Erskine and this forever seals the secret of the serum. Steve Rogers was sent to fight in World War II as a counter-intelligence agent and a costumed mascot for US that was given the codenamed Captain America! During his early adventures he got a teen sidekick named Bucky Barnes, he fought Nazi’s and super agents like Red Skull and even changed comic companies and became a member of the team The Avengers! Over the years, he has battled such baddies like Baron Zemo, Crossbones, Serpent Society, Baron Blood, Batroc the Leaper, Baron Von Strucker and Hydra. He has faked his own death via an assassination, fought against Iron Man in a superhero Civil War as well as was in a Secret War on another planet. He became a hero named Nomad as well as a member of S.H.I.E.L.D and even had turned into a werewolf. Captain America is a hero who has a rich history and many great stories in his own ongoing series as well as Avengers and cameos he has made in others books as well as mini series. This is just a very, very brief look at Captain America, and I think if you enjoy the movies being done by Disney via Marvel Studios or even enjoy reading comics you should do yourself a favor and go to your local comic shop and pick up some classic Capt comics and enjoy the stories that will unfold in the pages.

Hands down Captain America is one of my all time favorite superheroes alongside the Incredible Hulk and has been since I was a very young kid. I can remember talking comic books on the playground with fellow students and them making fun of the fact he was one of my favorites and they would all use the term “boring” when talking about him…now thanks to the Marvel Universe movies from Disney, those same people are now fans of the character! But let’s not harp on the past as it’s a holiday and we should be up and ready for fireworks! I do want to share some of my connection to Captain America as besides always being one of my favorite superheroes, one of my first ever comic books was Captain America # 185, one of my favorite action figures was my Mattel Secret Wars Captain America figure and the only arcade machine I own is Captain America And The Avengers! I want to think Mavericks for having this reprint comic in stock and would also like for remind you all that I grade on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So lets sit back and enjoy July 4th and take a look at the true American icon Captain America!

Captain America # 1  ****
Released in 2017     Cover Price $1.00     Marvel Comics     # 1of 1

German spies have made their way into the US Army and have been sabotaging and causing lots of mischief and this makes it hard for our top rated officers to trust anyone. But Mister Grover has a top-secret project in the works and takes two top ranked officers with him to witness it.  They are lead to a secret lab by Agent X-13 where they watch as skinny Steve Rogers, a man who could not get into the army, is injected with a serum that makes him smarter and stronger and the hero that America is needing. But as the experiment is done, one of the army officers turns out to be a spy and shoots the Doctor, shoots the remaining serum and also shoots and kills Mister Glover! Steve Rogers springs into action and is able to stop and kill the spy and after is sent out to find the spies and help win the war against the Nazis! One night while getting into his Captain America suit, he is found out by Bucky Barns, a youngster who is the mascot of the troop and becomes Cap’s teenage sidekick. A stage show that features a pair predicting terrible events is getting lots of press and even gets the attention of Captain America and Bucky who go and see Sando And Omar and quickly find out that the pair are spies for the Nazis and have set up the attacks they predicted! Cap and Bucky bring them down, and they find out that Sando is the true mastermind of this con and defeat him.

As you can see, to me the first appearance of Captain America is one of the biggest milestones in the history of comic books and for the most part is a very classic and standard comic superhero story as it should be as this is one of the originals to set that bar. The plot of this issue has a group of American agents and scientists taking an unhealthy young man named Steve Rogers and using him as a test subject in a experiment that turns him into the ultimate soldier with a mission to protect America and smash enemies like the Nazis. Once Steve becomes the masked hero, he is discovered by a youngster named Bucky Barns who becomes his masked sidekick named Bucky and together they beat up and stop the sinister plot of Omar and Sando who plan on doing harm to Americans. Really the plot of this first groundbreaking issue is that simple, and yet so good. What works is the fact that Captain America is such a great hero who represents a time in the world when a hero like him is really needed as things were so grim and many of people lived in fear and with unknown futures. Captain America himself is a noble man who loves his country and the people who make it up and is willing to risk his own life to save us from evil of all types.  He also is not afraid to crack some heads and bust some crooks when he see’s injustice. Bucky is a goofy teenager who idolized Captain America and upon finding out who the man behind the mask is turns into a skilled crime fighter himself who is always at Cap’s side when the battle starts. The issue’s main baddies are Sando And Omar, a pair of spy conmen who set up terrorist attacks and then predict them at a live stage show, and once found out they are beat up and brought to justice faster than you can read the words “Marvel Comics”. The cover for this True Believers reprint release is well-done and very eye catching for fans of Captain America and also rocks and amazing cover price of only $1.00! The interior art is done by the true legend of comics Jack Kirby and showcases some of his earliest work and his first time drawing Captain America, truly amazing classic comic book work. This is such a great read and fans of classic Marvel, Jack Kirby, Captain America and classic style Superheroes should 100% check it out. A perfect classic comic book with one of the most iconic heroes of all time and one that I can say I truly enjoy from cover to cover. This reprint comic also has a backup story from one of the early Marvel Comics issues and is as well worth the read. Check out below for a look at some of the classic style Kirby art you will see in this issue.

Well for me Captain America is the best patriotic superhero ever created as his comics and adventures has always been my favorite to read when comic to costumed heroes. I could go on and on about Captain America but for this Holiday update I will just leave you with this, if you have never read a Captain America comic do yourself a favor and grab an issue or two from the 60’s through early 90’s and enjoy a classic hero of the Marvel Universe. So I want to thank you for spending a part of your July 4th with me, and I hope you have enjoyed some cooked out food and are with loved ones to watch some fireworks on this American holiday. My next update will be about my Monster Bash vacation, and we will take a look at the fourth film in the Romero Dead films Land Of The Dead and the IDW adaptation of the film! So go enjoy Independence Day, and I’ll see you for the next update!

Hercules Once More Wants You To Marvel At Him This Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s hard to believe that we are once again at our big Turkey Day update and that means we will also be going back to Ancient Greece or in the case space as we are going to once more check in on Hercules from the Marvel Universe and the second mini series of him having adventures in space after being kicked off Mount Olympus for partying too much by his father Zeus! We also will be chatting a little about the character again and some of my memories of the Marvel version of Hercules, and we will also have a very special announcement about an upcoming Sparkle Comic that I will be writing and editing! But if you’re like me, I can smell the ham cooking and am looking forward to eating some mashed potatoes and rolls so let’s get this update started! Well I should say also that I am thankful for my family and friends all who have made my life so much better! I am thankful for Sparkle Comics and Blood Scream Comics as it’s a great outlet to be creative with friends and entertain readers! I am thankful for my cats Leslie and Streets J who add joy to my day-to-day life! I am thankful for my job as it’s a fun place to work and my co-workers are all outstanding people! I am thankful to Baron Von Porkchop as doing a Horror Host show is a dream come true! I also want to thank all my friends who use to make shot on video films with me back in the day of Independent B Movie and Bloodline Video as those films were so much fun to make! Oh I also want to say a very big THANK YOU for spending apart of your holiday with me here on Rotten Ink. So let’s catch back up with our good pal Hercules!

Growing up, I read lots of Marvel Comics from all decades as my brother and I would collect whatever issues we could get our hands on. And I can remember reading issues with Hercules in them mostly in the pages of The Avengers, Thor and Marvel Premire and while I enjoyed his antics in the pages of those comics I was never a diehard Marvel Hercules fan and that’s shocking as I loved the legend of Hercules but I think he just got lost in the shuffle as Hulk, Captain America, Spider-Man and Thor got most of my comic reading attention when it came to Marvel. In the Marvel Universe Hercules is an egomaniac that is a party animal and rushes into battle as he fears nothing and thinks his power and strength cant be topped. He is also a womanizer who even at times looks down on the female heroes and not in a mean way but more he is just so out of touch. Oh and he drinks a lot and is drunk at times causing issues. But while he does have flaws and its more because he is a fish out or water a hero out of his own time he does have lots of positives as he is very loyal to his friends and would sacrifice his own life to be the hero of the day. Plus in the Marvel Universe Hercules is strong and powerful but is not on the level of Thor or Hulk and has lost many battles even once being put into a coma by The Masters Of Evil. I also remember a story arch that had Hercules being fearful of battle and trying to hide his fear from other heroes, this took place in Thor Comics and that helped add another layer to the character for a short time. I also remember the multiple time that Hercules took on The Incredible Hulk and while good fights old Herc was always outclassed. The character as of recent time has been more of a background player even though he took over Hulks book for a while during the aftermath of the World War Hulk arch that had the name change to “The Incredible Hercules” and ran from 2008-2010 before being cancelled and going back to The Hulk. He also played a good part in Marvel Zombies as well as the long running event that was called Secret Empire and was apart of the underground team to bring down Hydra. So while Hercules in the Marvel Universe has never made his way to the films nor has he ever really been a major player he has to be respected as he has did his best to add to the Universe and brought a classic Greek hero to the world of Marvel Comics. What I would like to see Marvel do with Hercules in 2018 would be that he is on the outs with his fellow Gods and in order to get the respect and honor back he is given new labors that test his wits and might and even turns him into almost a anti-hero as he is forced to fight even fellow heroes as well as take a side in wars fought among men. Just an idea and a way to make Hercules be front and center as Thor and others are not sure his motives and he himself having to act under the will of his angry father who wants his son to be more vengeful. But I am sure Hercules will always be what he is in Marvel and that’s a solid background and team member of a massive team.

So now is the time for the major announcement about a future Sparkle Comics comic that is in the works and will be released sometimes in 2019 that will have me doing the stories and have the super talented Jeff Potter doing the art,  For those who don’t know, Mr. Potter has done the art for the Sparkle releases of Adventure Man # 1 based on the 80’s knock off generic toy of the same name as well as the comic based on the old shot on video film from Independent B Movie Farmer Joe # 0.  Both are top notch amazing comic books if this Editor In Chief says so himself! So I am sure you are now really wanting to know what this title will be, and I am going to share this with you my blog readers first before it hits the Sparkle website or social media that we will being doing a ongoing comic series based on the Greek Hero Hercules that will be inspired by the classic Sword And Sandal films from the 50s and 60s.  The first issue will have Herc taking on the Cannibal Cavemen! This is a project that I am very pleased to be doing as growing up I loved watching those classic films that starred Steve Reeves, Reg Park and Alan Steel as I found them to be lots of fun filled with action, adventures, drama and even dashes of science fiction.  The world of comics is lacking this type of comic starting Hercules. and I am proud that Sparkle will be able to bring this series to comics shops in Ohio as well as via online. So I hope that this has made many of you readers happy, and I hope many of you will check this comic series out once it”s released in 2019 and that it takes you back to the days of watching Hercules films on Saturday Mornings and reading his adventures in the pages of Charlton Comics. Check out the raw image of the cover for our first issue and again very much looking forward to creating this comics stories and quests.

So there it was, Sparkle Comics is doing a Hercules comic series that will be starting in 2019 that will for sure please fans of this classic Greek Demigod hero. So we are now at the time of the update when I have to start the comic review, and it’s kind of sad to think that this will be the last time we will be visiting Marvel Comics’ version of Hercules on Thanksgiving as he only had two classic mini series and with this one we have covered them both. To be honest, I am not really sure why I think of Hercules and Sword And Sandal films on this day but ever since I was a kid, strangely, I have….I wonder if when I was a kid maybe my dad had something like the Steve Reeve Hercules films or Three Stooges Meet Hercules on the TV on Thanksgiving….or if it’s because most of the Hercules films are considered Golden Turkeys? Whatever the reason, I will do my best to always cover a Hercules comic series on Turkey day and or at least some sort of Greek Hero book. So before we travel back to space and catch up with our pal Hercules, I do want to remind you all that I grade these comics on a 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 with that, let’s see what our old pal Hercules is up to on his second space mini series adventure!

Hercules: Prince Of Power # 1   **1/2
Released in 1984     Cover Price $0.60    Marvel     # 1 of 4

Hercules has taken sides in a battle in space over a planet that is used for mining and two sides are fighting over the riches that are present one side is rebels the other is the government and Herc and Recorder are on the side of the government and after bringing down the leader of the rebels who turned out to be a Skrull this battle also leads to the death of one of Hercules closest friends in space as he has been hanging out with for over 40 years and this is a sign for Hercules to move on deeper into space to find a new adventure. Once arriving to the new planet Hercules and Recorder meet Officer Tyne Pryntess who is an officer and who allows our hero to stay on the planet but she must interview Recorder to get information. While checking into his hotel room Hercules spots a beautiful woman who ignores his charms and this makes him want to have her even more! Meanwhile on Mount Olympus Ares The God Of War is mad and braiding his fellow Gods about growing old and fat and even condemns Zeus for allowing humans to have free will, this angers Zeus who turns Ares into ash and storms off. Hercules soon finds his dream girl who’s named Sasha who is a model and as she is on stage he corners her only to find out she is a he and is a Skrull who is in hiding as he was to be killed on his home planet! While Hercules forgives the Skrull but the crowd does not and Herc is forced to flee with the Skrull and Recorder as he does not want to hurt anyone. So after escaping they escape the planet with the help of Tyne Pryntess. We cut to the throne room of Zeus on Mount Olympus and the father of all gods tells his brother Pluto that all the Greek gods must die!

This 2nd series starts off with a bang as our plot takes Hercules and his robot friend Recorder deeper into space as Hercules losses a friend to a war that was caused by a Skrull, meets a woman he wants to get with that’s a Skrull and ends up befriending the shape shifting alien and is able to escape the planet. But while the plot of Hercules adventure is space is fun the real interesting story that is brewing is the fact Zeus is aware he is loosing his footing with mankind and is now on a warpath of killing his own godly children and starts by killing Ares as he speaks the truth of the God’s loosing their followers on Earth. Hercules in this issue is still very brave and is on the side of what’s right as he opens the issue helping the Government stop a group of Rebels who are hellbent on killing. He also shows very much he values friendship and that he has a big heart as the death of his friend truly bothers him. But as always while he is a hero he also spends most the issue trying to swoon women and push them into kissing or falling in love with him!! Recorder is around and once more filled with facts and advice and is still a great character but I will say he seems to be not as fun loving as he was in the first series. Skyppi is a Skrull who is a fugitive on his home planet and hides himself as a super model in order to earn money to survive, so far he seems like an older Skrull who fears death on his home planet will be cool to see if he joins Hercules and Recorder for this whole mini series. Officer Tyne Pryntess seems like a really good person and she can tell when people are lying as well and calm even the most wild of beasts, makes you wonder if she will come into play more in this series. Over all this first issue is a great way to kick off the 2nd space adventure for the Prince Of Power and I really cant wait to see how the Zeus storyline plays out as his path of killing rage is very interesting. So as I am smelling the ham cooking lets move onto the second issue and see what its has in store for us before dinner. Oh and I want to say that I really dig the cover of this issue as it showcases our three traveling heroes.

Hercules: Prince Of Power # 2  ***
Released in 1984      Cover Price $0.60    Marvel      # 2 of 4

Hercules along with Recorder and Skyppi are trying to escape the planet in the chariot and are being chased by the police who are willing to shoot them down! Hercules jumps from the chariot and stops the police from chasing them but while doing this the chariot crashes and leaves Recorder hurt and in need of repair and they rush to get him repaired. Meanwhile a crazed Skrull hater named Red Wolf is on a rampage and is killing Skrulls on a space station including a politician! Red Wolf is shot down and turns into a normal human named Rojohn Smythe and is taken to jail. Meanwhile Hercules and Skyppi get Recorder to a repair shop only for themselves to be under attack by the stations police force when they get a call that Herc is now a wanted man! As Hercules gets arrested Skyppi turns into a bug and escapes as Recorder is still left in the repair shop. Back on Mount Olympus things are going bad as Zeus is on a killing spree and is taking the lives of his fellow Gods with only Apollo able to escape as he rockets himself into space. Hercules wakes up in jail from a nightmare and due to Zeus actions he has also aged, and worse he is sharing the cell with Rojohn who explains that he cannot control Red Wolf as it’s a spirit that lives inside him that hates Skrulls! As they chat Skyppi shows up to break them out and this triggers Red Wolf who goes into kill mode and attacks the old Skrull! Hercules stands up for his friend and fights Red Wolf around the jail and this leads them to the airlock and when it opens Hercules saves the life of Red Wolf who in turn respects Herc and runs distraction to the guards so Hercules, Skyppi and Recorder can get to the chariot and head to Mount Olympus to see what is going on with his father as the nightmare he had shook the Prince Of Power to his core.

Wow this second issue is really good and if you dig Hercules in the Marvel Universe this is one that is worth a read! The plot of this issue has Herc and his pals escaping one planet that leaves Recorder damaged and in need of repair all because Hercules was careless and only wanted to fight and not get his friends to safety, and when getting them off the planet finally they end up at a space station that has a Skrull hating possessed killer who has his eye on Skyppi! Hercules in this issue learns a lesson that his careless love for battle does have downsides as it leads to a friend being hurt, he also learns that using a combination of fighting and brains is the best way to win a fight! One thing as well that happens to the ever cocky Hercules in this issue is that he is growing older as his father Zeus kills more of his fellow Gods and this worries the Prince Of Power as he don’t know what’s going on at Mount Olympus but knows something is wrong for sure! Recorder and Skyppi are great sidekick characters and while they are under the protection of the Lion of Olympus they also are looking out for him as they try their best to be his voice of reason. Red Wolf is a spirit who for some reason 100% hates Skrulls and wants to kill as many of them as he can! While Red Wolf is a bad spirit he does knows respect when his life is saved and in turn does what he can to help Hercules escape the space station. I really liked the look of Red Wolf as it was a weird mix of Native American, Sabertooth and demon! Zeus has lost his mind and is really on a killing spree on Mount Olympus and is truly the main villain of this comic series! The only God this far to escape is Apollo who has fled for his life and by the looks might be on his way to find Hercules to try and get help. What I like the most about this series this far is the fact Hercules is traveling around causing a mess were ever he is going and while he is having a space adventure his home on Mount Olympus is crumbling! Cool cover and great interior art work by Bob Layton and another fun issue in this mini series….man I can smell that ham cooking even stronger so lets move on to issue three!

Hercules: Prince Of Power # 3   **1/2
Released in 1984      Cover Price $0.60    Marvel      # 3 of 4

We start on a moon planet and a group of tomb raiders are being slaughtered by someone who is setting traps by using jewels and leaves the only survivor Shreck left to enter and retrieve the pure power that awaits him inside! Meanwhile Hercules along with his friends are traveling back to Mount Olympus when he gets a call from Mentor that he needs to rush to Titan as something bad has taken place. As Hercules arrives he soon finds out that Apollo is there and as well has aged and is near death, before the God of Light dies he tells Herc that all that awaits him back on Olympus is death. Mentor takes Hercules to the side and takes him to the great space computer ISSAC to see what is going on at Mount Olympus and soon finds that all of his fellow Gods are dead besides Zeus! Meanwhile Shreck finds what he is looking for and that’s the tomb of the late Captain Marvel and he steals the dead heroes power bands and heads to Titan and attacks just as Hercules is set to leave for his home. While Hercules, Skyppi and Mentor all try and hold off the now powerful Shreck who is doing his evil deeds all in the name of Thanos, Recorder and ISSAC are trying to find a weakness in the power that was once the mighty Captain Marvels. As Shreck knocks out our heroes in a brutal battle and starts his destruction of Titan, Recorder gets the information he needs to give to the awakening Hercules and the prince of power sets the plan in motion and tricks Shreck into a power core that overloads him and ends his path of terror once and for all. As Mentor and says farewell to Hercules, the might Zeus sits on his throne on Mount Olympus and awaits the arrival of his last son.

This was an entertaining issue that adds one last side quest to Hercules before he can make his way home to find out the answers he is seeking. This one has Hercules and his pals defending Titan from a power crazed madman who is a follower of Thanos and who has robbed the grave of Captain Marvel to do so! Hercules in this issue is still very much fun loving and looking for fighting action but he also really seems to be worried about his home and all his fellow Gods that live there. Plus as always he sticks his own neck out in order to save his friends and the innocent people who could be injured unjustly. Recorder is super helpful in this issue as he is quick minded and along with the worlds Super Space Computer come up with a plan to stop the threat in its destructive tracks. Skyppi as well tries what he can to help by shape shifting and trying to keep Shreck at bay, while he is a downbeat old Skrull he still shows he very much is a loyal friend to Hercules. Mentor, his son StarFox and computer ISSAC all live on Titan and try to warn Herc on what’s awaiting him on Mount Olympus and also offered shelter to the dying Apollo. Shreck is a soulless scumbag who follows the words and evil teachings of Thanos and robs a grave of a beloved superhero in order to still his power bracelets to bring death to all those who ever wronged his idol. Shreck is a true scumbag and a terrible person and even sent in his own friends to get what he needed and knew that they would keep dying…Shreck is a terrible person so once he is brought down you find yourself very happy. The sad part of this issue is seeing Apollo very old and dying with Hercules by his side telling him that their home is no more and that Zeus as turned against them all. I think the best thing about this issue for me was the last page that had Zeus sitting on his throne holding a bloody axe and awaiting the arrival of his last son alive. Cover of this issue is so-so and the interior art by Bob Layton is good and I should also say that he also did the story for this mini series. So with that this issue is good and a nice set up for the final issue and with that lets move onto the fourth and final issue.

Hercules: Prince Of Power # 4  ***
Released in 1984    Cover Price $0.60    Marvel      # 4 of 4

Hercules arrives at Mount Olympus and finds it in ruins and all his fellow Gods dead and gone. His father with anger and hate in his eyes sits waiting for him to enter and challenges him to a fight that will leave one of them dead! Hercules refuses to fight his father and this angers Zeus who also creates a marble Horse Monster to go after and run off Recorder and Skyppi and attacks his son! Zeus beats Hercules up and damages his arm and blinds him in one eye, he also alerts his son that his fate is with a pearl that he had placed in a vat of fire and just as the father of all Gods is about to kill his son, Hercules smashes the walls around them and buries Zeus under the rubble. Meanwhile Recorder and Skyppi trick the Marble Horse and push it down a hole and return to find Hercules weak and possibly dying from his wounds, as they try and get him to Apollo’s Chariot the Mighty Zeus breaks free and is hungry for blood! As Recorder takes Hercules away Skyppi stays behind and takes the form of Herc to try and trick Zeus but it does not as Zeus grabs Skyppi by the neck and “snaps” it just as Hercules comes back for him and this trigger the Prince Of Power to fight his father and he gives the king of Gods a butt whopping! Just as Hercules is about to smash his father with an axe he drops it and Zeus informs him that he has passed the test and that he would like for Hercules to be the new role model of mankind as he and the Gods time has long been over, and that he never really killed the other gods they are all just in another dimension were they will all live and Hercules as well can decide if he wants to stay or join his fellow Gods in this new dimension by getting the pearl from the fire. As Zeus leaves Hercules is filled with joy knowing his father has only testing him and not truly mad and decides to stay and go on more adventures with Recorder and Skyppi!

Hercules The Prince Of Power fighting The Father of The Gods Zeus in a bloody battle is the plot of this issue, and man, was this a fun one to read! The fact that Zeus is like a crazy axe wielding maniac filled with rage and a cocky attitude makes him a very evil foe for Hercules, but after almost beating his son to death and forcing his own son to almost beat him to death we all learn that this was just a test to see if Herc has learned a lesson and if he would like to join the Gods in a new dimension or if he would like to stay on Earth and do good for humankind. In this issue Hercules shows that he is not only loyal to his family but also his friends, and when pushed, he will do the right thing even if it’s fighting his own father to the death. He also shows that he can be hurt badly as his father blinds him in one eye and almost removes one of his arms from a powerful blow with his axe. I also really like that Hercules decides to stay on Earth and by doing so his wounds are healed and his aging goes away. Skyppi and Recorder show that they work well as a team as they outsmart and defeat a massive foe made of stone and even risk their own lives in order to try and help save Hercules. Zeus starts the issue out being a monster who it’s clear could kill Hercules and his friends with ease, but by the ends shows that he is a loving father and an ancient god that knows his time has passed. This second mini series continues the adventure of Hercules in space and ends with him back at Mount Olympus and delivers a very fun and entertaining read that is sure to please fans of this character as well as fans of the old Sword And Sandal films. The cover of this issue is pretty great and shows a evil looking Zeus standing over a defeated Hercules and is eye catching, and once more, the story and interior art done by Bob Layton is fantastic and is great classic 80’s Marvel stuff and makes this even more enjoyable. So as you can see, this was a solid 4 issue read that delivers adventure and drama and throws in just enough Greek mythology to make it fun for fans of comics and history! Check out the art below to see a sample of Layton’s style, and to sum it up, this was a great read for Thanksgiving 2017.

So ends Rotten Ink’s journey with Marvel’s version of Hercules. It was a fun ride filled with space and gods, and I would like to think that Hercules, Recorder and Skyppi are flying around on Apollo’s Chariot this very night chatting about battle and eating turkey! Speaking of eating, dinner is ready, and I am hungry and looking forward to spending sometime with my family on this holiday. So I am going to wrap this update up and hope that you and your family and friends have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Out next update will be about The Geriatric Gangrene Jujitsu Gerbils, a weird 90’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip off that was unleashed on the readers. So until next time, eat a turkey leg or two, watch a football game or three and make sure to watch a Horror Host on this Holiday evening! Once more Happy Thanksgiving to all of you friends, family and readers.

 

Marvel At The Thanksgiving Might Of The Mighty Hercules

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that while you are reading this your home is filled with the smell of turkey, stuffing and all the other foods of this holiday. I am once more over at my parents’ house getting ready to chomp down on some turkey all the while chatting with my parents and watching football on the TV. This year has been a crazy one filled with great moments to be thankful for like the birth of Sparkle Comics and the continued success of Baron Von Porkchop as well some very rough moments like losing my cousin Norman D. 2016 has been a year filled with great moments with my girlfriend Juliet from going to Pittsburgh, to Horrorhound Weekend and everything in-between! So far Hollywood has delivered some fun films to watch in the theaters that I was able to see with friends. Video game companies have released some great games for me to play on my PS4 and even my NES with Homebrew and hacked games. Marvel, DC, Titan and IDW have put out some amazing comics for me to read from Sam Wilson Captain America to Tales From The Darkside. I am thankful for friends like Josh Weinberg, Henrique Couto, Todd The Fox, Queen V, Garrison Kane, Dusty Austin, Dan Harkless, David J. Getz, Geoff Burkman, Chris Seaver, Louis Justin, Spencer Lucas and so many more for giving me great friendship and moments that impact my life everyday. I am thankful for my friends from the Sparkle Comic family like Jason Young, Jeremy Hoyt, Jeff Potter, Wheeler Hall, Damien Brunk, Natalie Claude, Jason Gilmore, Scott Scarborough, Tom Amrhein and Joe Grunenwald who are all so talented at what they do and are making a Dayton, Ohio based comic company come to life…it truly is comics made by friends for fans. I can’t forget my Horror Host family as people like A. Ghastlee Ghoul, Halloween Jack, Fritz The Nite Owl, Dale Kay, Janet Decay, Dr. Pureblood, Baron Von Wolfstein and Riggor Mortiss who are all amazing people with amazing shows that offer such great friendships and programs that are inspiring. I am very thankful for my cousin Stephen Alexander who makes Baron Von Porkchop come alive as well as he is one of my near and dearest friends. I am thankful you all, the readers of Rotten Ink who make this blog even more fun for me to write! And of course I am thankful for my family as they are truly the people in my life that keep me sane! Man, so much to be thankful for, so before we take a look at Hercules as done by Marvel Comics let’s go grab a plate of food and stuff our bellies as we travel to the world of Greek mythology once more.  This time around we’ll see what the world’s top comic company does with the son of Zeus. I should also note that this update will be a quick one as Hercules from the Marvel Universe demands that I spend more time eating mashed potatoes and turkey, and less time writing about him!

Thanksgiving Day Feast With The Trimings

The 1960’s saw Hercules being pulled from his time of Ancient Greece by Immortus to fight Thor or was it? That version of Hercules was really just a space phantom, and the real Hercules would meet Thor in his next Marvel Comic appearance. Hercules would defeat Thor in battle when Odin punished his son for falling in love with a mortal Earth woman named Jane Foster. But the two would turn into friends and would join each other in battle with Thor even rescuing Hercules from Hades when his uncle Pluto tricked him into becoming the ruler of the land of the dead.  Hercules would also go on to have brief fights with Hulk, The Avengers, Sub-Mariner and Dragon Man to name a few. After being banned from Olympus by his father Zeus for coming to Earth without his permission, he would go on to join The Avengers and seal himself being a true iconic modern day superhero helping them on many missions. Hercules also join such teams as Heroes For Hire, Damage Control, The Defenders and The Champions.  In all of these groups, he not only lent his Godly strength but also his mind for war and battle, making him a major and important member of each of the teams he has joined. During his Marvel Universe Hercules journey has also battled Ares, High Evolutionary, Mister Hyde, Mongoose and Doctor Doom to name a few. He also took over for The Incredible Hulk during the events of Planet Hulk, and after Hulk returned for the story line World War Hulk, Hercules teamed with Amadeus Cho for a while. And during Civil War, Hercules took the side of Captain America as he calls the Superhuman Registration Act supporters “Traitors”! During the Secret Invasion storyline Hercules lead a team called God Squad whose members included Snowbird and Demogorge to fight the Skull. These adventures are just a drop in the hat of the adventures Hercules has had in the Marvel Universe. Hercules is super strong and is skilled in boxing, pankration, archery and Greco-Roman wrestling and as well has a healing factor. His first appearance was in Journey Into Mystery Annual # 1, and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created this Marvel Comic version of the Greek hero who is still being used by Marvel this day. As a young comic reader I used to buy Thor comics off the newsstand, and when Hercules was guest starring, I can always remember looking at those as a treat. While not even in my top 20 favorite Marvel Comic characters, Hercules is still one I enjoy reading about, once more proving that the classic heroes of time never fully go away, they just get modernized for a newer generation.

Marvel Hercules 1Marvel Hercules 2Marvel Hercules 3

Marvel’s Hercules has had his share of merchandise that includes besides the comics, action figures in the Marvel Legends line and more, statues and busts done by such companies as Bowen, many board game and table-top game pieces like Heroclix and has appeared on posters as well as many video games. Hercules is just one of those characters that lends himself into being made into merchandise and also was a perfect fit for comic books. Over the years I have played HeroClix off and on with friends and have used the Hercules piece before in battles.  While a solid figure who can deal out damage, he falls a little short if the luck of the role is not on your side. So if you’re a fan of Marvel’s Hercules make sure to check out many of the items I mentioned above as they can add great options to your collection.

Marvel Hercules bustMarvel Hercules action figureMarvel Hercules heroclix

So there you have it, a quick look at the history of Hercules in the Marvel Universe as well as a peek at the cool merchandise based on him.  I don’t know about you, but I am ready to take a look at this 4 issue mini series that I should thank Mavericks for having in stock those many years back that I bought them. But before we travel to Greece and see what Herc is up to, I should also remind you that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So with that I think we are ready to climb Mount Olympus and see just what mischief Hercules will get into, and if memory serves me correctly, this series is lots of fun and I am looking forward to re-reading it. So it’s Adventure Time!!!

Hercules 1 Marvel

Hercules: Prince Of Power # 1  ***
Released in 1982   Cover Price .60     Marvel     # 1 of 4

Hercules climbs to the top of Mount Olympus after years of being away and finds the day of his return is not filled with a feast but is to be spent in quiet in honor of his father Zeus. Hercules is bored and decides to horse around in his room with the wine maids and causes great noises that anger Zeus who in turn bans Hercules from Olympus and sends him into space until he learns a lesson.  With Apollo’s Chariot he enters The Andromeda Galaxy where he meets and spends the night with aliens of the Rigellians race, who record data for study.  They send a Recorder Droid with Hercules who continues his quest in space! Hercules lands at a planet that has a massive casino, and he and Recorder spend time drinking.  Hercules spends time telling stories to the waitresses to impress them, but he soon has the whole bar against him when he attacks with no cause a massive muscle alien who is actually a gentle giant! As Hercules and Recorder leave with their heads down, a spacecraft wrecks outside and Hercules saves the passengers as well as the town as he flings the fuel tank into the sky before it explodes.  Once more he becomes a hero and learns a valuable lesson of forgiveness.

Take Greek mythology and mix it with the adventures of Han Solo of Star Wars fame, and this is what you’re in for reading this fun adventure comic.  The plot is simple and very much inspired by many films based on Hercules as his reckless and self-indulgent attitude angers his father Zeus who bans him from Mount Olympus until he learns a lesson, but the twist this time around is he is not sent to Earth but instead to outer space where he quickly makes friends and has a robot sidekick named Recorder who will follow his adventures. Hercules is very cocky, and it’s clear his whole world revolves around himself and he expects everyone to roll out the red carpet when he comes around.  Most of the time, he thinks with his muscles and not his brain and thinks that fighting is the way to get respect from strangers. But he also knows what he must do when lives are in danger as he was willing to risk his own life to save those of aliens. But while Hercules is self centered, he still is a very likeble character as he is a brat but he doesn’t know he is a brat. Recorder is bland and around just to learn, but you can tell this android has a personality that will shine through by the end of this mini series. Zeus is just not having his son’s brash attitude anymore and wants to prove a point that his word is law on Olympus, and he is a character the demands and earns his respect. So far we have no major bad guys as this issue clearly is just the build up on how to get Hercules from Olympus to space. The cover is amazing and very eye catching, with the inside art being done by Bob Layton (who also wrote it) that is truly that classic 70’s and early 80’s magic! So let’s see what’s next for Hercules and see what he learns on what is his new quests.

Hercules 2 Marvel

Hercules: Prince Of Power # 2  ***
Released in 1982   Cover Price .60     Marvel     # 2 of 4

Hercules and Recorder lose a drag race in space, and this causes the pair to have to come up with money to pay off their debt.  This also leaves Apollo’s Carriage in the hands of the aliens who won, and the horses are not too pleased when the pair try to tamper with the gold carriage. Hercules goes on a rescue mission to rescue the kidnapped Layana Sweetwater, who is the daughter of a powerful galaxy politician. During the rescue Hercules beats up the space pirates and Recorder get his hand blown off, but they succeeds at the rescue, only to find out there is no reward money! Hercules and Layana fall in love, and while having a private time in their rented room, Recorder is arrested as they think he is a peeping tom robot! Hercules, after lying about why he and Layana can’t stay together forever, soon finds out that she ran away from home as her promised husband, who is a lizard man by the name of Count Igwanus who is “evil”, busts in and is not pleased to see his soon to be bride in bed with another man! Hercules takes the fight to Igwanus and his men but soon finds out that he has been played for fool as Layana lied about Igwanus, who in fact is a noble lizard man she was in love with and to marry the day she was kidnapped! After the matter is settled, and Igwanus takes Layana home.  He also pays Hercules the reward money, and he pays off his debt to the racers who are in the hospital now because of Apollo’s horses and Recorder is bailed out from jail.

The second issue of this mini series is just as charming as the first and once more follows Hercules and his adventure into space…wait, they should have called this “Hercules & Recorder’s Excellent Space Adventure”! The plot of this issue has Hercules and Recorder saving a young woman from pirates only to find that the money promised for her safe keeping was a fraud as are the lies Hercules and the rescued woman tell each other. Hercules is as cocky as ever but also noble as he wants to pay off his debts to a pair of space racers he lost to.  He’s also a liar as he beds a young blonde woman he rescues and then in order to get her from not falling in love with him lies about a lost love of his past. I will say that Hercules also seems to learn a lesson in this issue as he finds out lies have fall out and that when wrong, you must try to make things right. Recorder is not just a robot that is recording all what Hercules does but is also a hero as he steps up in the rescue effort and even loses his hand in the fight. The Horses of Apollo’s Chariot are very protective and it’s shown they will turn into fire eyed wild stallions if crossed that will put you in the hospital. Layana Sweetwater is a cute young blonde who was kidnapped and tells lies in order to try and get Hercules to let her stay with him.  By the end, she seems to not have learned a thing. Count Igwanus is just a Lizard Man in love who is confused when Hercules attacks him and his men, but he soon finds out that his soon to be bride lied to the Son of Zeus and even after all the fighting he still loves and wants to marry Layana. This issue was lots of fun and also has Hercules change his costume from his famous green and orange to a slick black and red one! Comedy, action, adventure and science fiction all come together so well in this issue, and for sure this was one hell of a fun read on this holiday! The cover is great once again, and the art inside is done by Bob Layton who also handled the story again. So far I would say Marvel is doing the Hercules character right, and I am having a blast with this one on this Thanksgiving Day! Let’s see what old Hercules and Recorder get into next, shall we?

Hercules 3 Marvel

Hercules: Prince Of Power # 3  ***
Released in 1982    Cover Price .60     Marvel     # 3 of 4

Hercules and Recorder are under attack from a fleet of spacecraft ,and after trying to reason with them, Hercules gets mad and leaps into space from his chariot and takes over the aliens ship and lands it back at their base to inform them they mean no harm and only want to travel to a planet they heard had great wine.  While Hercules is trying to explain this, he meets Commander Malin who informs him that the reason he was under attack by his men was because he was flying in a restricted area as planets from this part of space have gone missing over the years and they have been put in charge to make sure no more go missing.  As Hercules and Recorder become guests of the massive war ship, they soon find that they are all under attack.  All of the fighters for the protection of the planets are destroyed, and it’s up to Hercules to stop this invading menaces.  He soon finds himself bound to the wall, the prisoner of a race of insect like aliens who worship a god they claim they must sacrifice planets to! Poor Recorder has his legs blown off, and Hercules powers up and breaks free and saves the target planet.  He and Recorder escape just in time as the aliens commit suicide after they think they failed their god. Commander Malin is pleased with the Lion of Olympus, Hercules and has Recorder’s legs replaced.  They all think things have ended well….that is till we find out that the god they worshipped was none other that the world eater Galactus!

This issue is all about planets going missing and Hercules having to step up and face odds that are against him and his robot friend.  Aliens from a planet long gone think that they must give other worlds to the one who ended theirs in order to please him for letting them live.  The one cool thing about this issue is that the good aliens are from different parts of the galaxy that must work together as a galactic Air Force in order to keep worlds safe from an unknown source of destruction.  It reminded me of the film “The Last Starfighter” as it also had aliens from all over teaming up to save worlds from danger. Hercules in this issue is brave and puts others before himself as he knows that he must stop the insect aliens from stealing planets to appease their god. In fact he goes into a brutal rage by the end and knocks the snot out of many of the bad guys and then uses a metal rod to blow up their device that sends the planets to Galactus! But what Hercules also does by saving that one planet is kill off two huge ships filled with insect aliens who kill themselves for failing and as well has pissed off the powerful Galactus, who now is on the warpath! Recorder can’t catch a break as he gets his legs blown off and must get odd shaped new ones as replacements. Commander Malin and his men are brave and noble but are also outmanned and outgunned, but they still go down with a fight. The insect aliens are cold blooded killers but do what they do in order save many planets.  They look at it this way, give one planet to save many, and when they fail to deliver this time around, they would rather die than face the wrath of Galactus. Speaking of Galactus, he only appears at the end of the issue, and man is he mad! The things I enjoyed about this issue is that it’s like they tossed elements of Greek mythology, Aerial Combat, The Last Starfighter and classic Marvel Comics into a blender and this space opera action drama is what was created. Bob Layton is on art and story again and does fantastic as he has done with the past two issues, and this time around the cover is good as the crazed madman look in Hercules’ eyes says a thousand words – all of them are cuss words and threats of bodily harm! Well let’s see what the fourth and final issue in this series has to offer on this glorious turkey day holiday update.

Hercules 4 Marvel

Hercules: Prince Of Power # 4  **1/2
Released in 1982   Cover Price .60     Marvel     # 4 of 4

Hercules and Recorder are now on the planet they just saved and a massive feast with tons of wine, beer and brew is being served in his honor.  He even receives the most powerful of all alcoholic drinks in the world as the alien’s gratitude. Galactus is mad that his followers have failed and sends his new female herald Nova, who prepares the planet to be drained of its life by her master.  But Hercules finds out about the approaching doom and he decides that this planet is under his protection and will act as its savior once more. Hercules sweeps Nova off her feet and after he beds her, he takes Apollo’s Chariot and Recorder to Galactus’ ship and attempts to stop the world eater.  He soon finds even his mighty power and strength is not match for Galactus, who after beating the Son of Zeus still is on plan to drain and eat the energy of the planet. Hercules takes a few moments to think of a plan and decides to slip the whole bottle of the most powerful alcohol into Galactus’s drink.  This of course does not work but makes the world eater laugh and decide to leave the planet alone.  As Recorder returns to the Rigellians for repairs as well as with a memory filled with stories, Hercules returns to the alien planet and goes on a date with Nova who is now taking some time off.

This final issue is lots of fun, but also seems a little rushed and is not the note I would have like to see Hercules and Recorders’ space adventure end as they separate from each other and Herc just goes on a date with Nova. The plot has Galactus wanting to eat a world, and Hercules who is being treated like a king (or is that a god?) is enjoying the huge party on the planet and sets his sights on stopping Galactus from eating away his world that’s filled with good wine and drink. I love the idea that Hercules is so ego driven that he thinks he can stand toe to toe with Galactus and even tries his best to punch out the mighty icon of Marvel who dines on worlds and has zero feelings. Hercules, while still very much a muscle bound meat head, learns in this issue once more that he can use his mind and win a fight over using his fists, and that others in the universe are as well important as just himself and his fellow Greek gods. He also once more shows that he has the charm as he beds Nova, a female who is on fire and is the herald of Galactus. Recorder is beat up and has tons of replacement parts, but you can tell he has built up a friendship with Hercules and is very bummed when the Rigellians come to reclaim him for his information and to stop the use of their credit that the pair had ran up. Nova at first comes in like a Horseman of the Apocalypse ready to spread gloom and doom, but by the end acts more like a love struck high school girl. Galactus is as wise as he is hungry and is amused by the tricks and bravery of Hercules and decides to spare the world and allow his herald time off to amuse his new Greek hero friend. As I said before, what I didn’t like is that the team up adventure and friendship of Hercules and Recorder come to an end here and while they battle one of the Marvel Universe’s most dangerous characters, it’s hardly a battle and more like a scuffle that ends with drinks afterwards. The cover for this issue is okay and has Galactus looking as if he is melting Hercules with beams from his eyes. The art and story inside is once more done by Bob Layton and is great stuff, and really makes me wish that the series lasted a little longer. So with this being Thanksgiving and all, I would like to wrap this up by saying this was a solid and great adventure starring Hercules and shows that Marvel knows how to comic book the Greek hero right. Check out some artwork below to see how epic this comic series is!

hercules prince of power art 1

So now that we have returned from space on Apollo’s Chariot and from yet another Thanksgiving adventure with Hercules, I would like to wish you all once more a safe and fun holiday season and hope that this update helped brighten your day even a little bit. I want to also note that in the future i will cover the next Marvel Hercules mini-series based on his adventures in space. Our next update starts our countdown to the big Christmas Eve update and will be about those warrior trolls known as the Stone Protectors who I am sure made at least a handful of Christmas’s brighter when youngsters got the toys, VHS tapes or comics for gifts. So until, then eat a little more turkey, read a comic or three and spend some time with your loved ones! See you next update.

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