Written by: JD Morvan
Art by: Looky & Oliver Thill
Translation: Virginie Selavy & Marc Bouron-Crook
Cover by: Walt Simonson & Laura Martin
Published by: Titan Comics
This week sees the return of “Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens” from Titan Comics for its second instalment. In a tale self-styled as “Ancient Greece meets Gears of War”, multi award-winning writer JD Morvan teams up with artists Looky and Thill to give the myth of the Labours of Hercules a memorable science fiction makeover.
From the opening page, we see that the source material is faithfully adapted, with details such as character names replicated in full. As in the original myth, the series begins with Hera, Queen of the Gods, driving Hercules insane. Consumed by madness, the hero kills his wife and children. In order to atone for his actions, the divine Axiomatikos send Hercules to serve King Eurystheus, for whom he must complete a dozen tasks. Only once the list is complete will he be free again.
One of the main strengths Morvan brings to this series is the clear research that he has done to transport the story seamlessly across both millennia and genres. While the Greek names can at times be jarring, for the most part Morvan constructs a futuristic world that almost blends in with the legend he is drawing from. The artwork for each of the worlds explored strives for perfection too, with the cold halls of Argolid drawn with as much fervour as the rocky heights of Nemea. In terms of overall worldbuilding, the universe Morvan has constructed is fleshed out more and more as the two issues progress, with the final pages of the second depicting an almost Warhammer 40K setup that sci-fi fans are sure to feel at home in.
Perhaps the most divisive element in the comic so far has been the eponymous Hercules himself. In many ways, this comes as no surprise, as Greek legends themselves have a penchant for anti-heroes and romantic tragedy. Here however, Hercules is layered with more guilt and mental anguish than seen before, and at times the panels become so narrow that readers would feel cramped were it not for the plethora of action sequences that create more room alongside. In this respect at least, Morvan strikes the right balance. The battle between Hercules and the Nemean Lion proceeds with an almost Transfomers momentum, with shots Michael Bay himself would do well to capture. And when it’s not full-throttle on the gunfire, the fighting adopts a more gladiatorial approach, with panels of 300-esque sword-on-steel action.
Ultimately, Morvan pitches a sprawling sci-fi universe, akin to BioWare’s Mass Effect. He populates this with a sparse cast, yet still achieves the feel of something greater. But while the poem behind the comic may be epic too, there’s something about this Hercules story that seems to have been lost in translation.