I never would have guessed that I could love the Marvel version of Greek mythology this much. Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente have created something wonderful with this Incredible Hercules series. It's a buddy book. It's a super-hero comic. It's a mythological book. It's all of those things, but most importantly, it's good.
The trade opens with a flashback story where Hercules learns he is the son of Zeus. It's a great little origin story, made better by Herc exhibiting all those smug (yet heroic) traits that was love so much. We also see the origin of his "uniform." There is a short little Amadeus Cho story, but it is pretty much a fluff piece about Kirby, Cho's coyote pup. There is a lot of Dark Reign action early on, establishing Herc squarely in the Marvel U as he goes up against the Dark Avengers and his mother's Olympus Group. The Olympus Group is an evil company run by the Greed deities on Earth. It's a great idea and the back and forth with the Dark Avengers is quite entertaining. I get the impression that Norman Osborn is never quite certain what or who he is dealing with here.
The rest of the story deals with Hercules and Cho traveling to Hades to try and defend the life of Zeus. New Warrior Aegis features prominently in the story, since he's one of Athena's chosen champions, but he doesn't make out too well. He's killed off pretty quickly, but at least with a story set in Hades, he still has a pretty big role after he dies! His best sequence is the tour of the afterlife casino populated by heroes and villains of the Marvel U. It seems they wait around and play the slots, gambling that soon one of them will be called back up to the land of the living. "Although, to be honest, more of them win than you might ever expect." We see Jack of Hearts come up a winner, is his return imminent? Hercules is unable to absolve Zeus of the crimes he committed as the head of the gods, and so Zeus is banished back to the land of mortals with his mind wiped. He has to learn his ways again, now as Kid Zeus. Look at that idea! Classic superhero and classic mythology at the same time. The fit is perfect.
There are a bunch of artists on this collection and I'm not too familiar with any of them. They all do a nice job keeping things classic looking. I especially liked Rodney Buchemi's pencils on the flashback story. The facial expressions are top notch.