The Incredible Hercules: Secret Invasion
By Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente (Writers); Rafa Sandoval (Penciler); Roger Bonet with Greg Adams (Inkers); and Martegod Gracia with Dennis Calero & Raul Trevino (Colourists); 2009
The Secret Invasion has begun, and Earth is overrun by Skrull shape-shifters on a holy crusade to remake the universe in their image. But the goddess Athena has a solution: if you want to destroy the Skrulls: kill their gods. To this end, Athena’s brother, Hercules, leads a uniquely divine strike force — including Inuit demigoddess Snowbird, Eternal warrior-scholar Ajak, the monstrous god-eater Demogorge, and evil Japanese trickster deity Amatsu Mikaboshi, plus Herc’s boy-genius sidekick Amadeus Cho and his faithful coyote pup. Together, they embark on a celestial voyage to the realm of the Skrull gods, finding romance, camaraderie, and treachery among their ranks along the way. Featuring Nightmare and the Eternals!
This book is fresh from my excursion to Fan Expo 2016 at the beginning of September, which I was excited to come across, along with its successor, at great discount. While not impossible to find online, Incredible Hercules books seem a lot rarer nowadays, so I found this to be very fortunate. Rarity may not been the case as much for Secret Invasion tie-ins, however, since I recall seeing them everywhere following the event.
As is plastered all over the book, it ties in with the publication-spanning event Secret Invasion, which I have now read a couple of the tie-ins for, but I’ve never read the event’s book itself. This volume collects Incredible Hercules issues #116-120. The official title for this story arc is actually “Sacred Invasion,” though this appears nowhere on the cover or spine, since I assume they wanted to keep things consistent with the branding of the event.
The gist of Secret Invasion is fairly easy to understand: the shape-shifting aliens called Skrulls have infiltrated humanity on a massive scale, including powerful teams and institutions like The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., and Hydra. Much like Civil War before it and events that have followed, tie-in arcs littered Marvel Comics, many not adding much or only paying lip service to the event for the sake of continuity. This tie-in, however, is one of the gems that actually adds something more.
Since the invasion is a religious endeavour, it makes sense that a battle would be fought on this front while the rest of the Marvel heroes deal with the invasion on the front lines. It’s arguable that victory would not have been possible if not for these deeds of Hercules and the rest of the “God Squad.”
Their voyage takes them through the “Dreamtime,” the collective unconsciousness of all sentient life, in order to find the realm of the Skrull gods and kill them. While fairly straightforward, the smaller team does allow for a lot of good character moments as they all have history with one another, at some times bonding and other times antagonizing one another. I knew little about any of these characters outside of Hercules and Amadeus, but I got a good feeling of who they were very quickly. It was especially interesting to see the normally brazen Hercules forced into a leadership role, which the Prince of Power openly laments before the quest is underway.
Plot wise it’s not the most complicated, but it helped expand the Marvel Universe for me from the perspective of the gods and the different pantheons, which was a level of world building I appreciated. I’m sure the groundwork had been lain before, but it was valuable for me that it was covered here. Other than that, it continues to do great work with the characters, who are the driving force for this title to me.
The story takes us to various places within “reality” which are beautifully represented, whether they’re alien worlds, the surreality of the Dreamtime, or the otherworldly realm of the Skrull gods. Design-wise a lot of it just amounts to looking more or less like space, but I still enjoyed these visuals for what they were. Hordes of nightmares and fallen alien gods pursue them on their journey as well, which provide some of the more interesting character/creature designs, though some are a little interchangeable and/or uninspired.
I found the book to be surprisingly violent considering Hercules is not exactly an “edgy” character and the tone is often humorous. I liked the violence a great deal, I just wasn’t expecting it to this degree. There are numerous instances of decapitation, impalement, and characters exploding into showers of fleshly debris. I never found it to be too gratuitous, but it certainly set the bar higher than I would have expected from Marvel.
This volume contained no extra content.
As a tie-in story Incredible Hercules: Secret Invasion is superb, providing something more substantial to an event rather than loosely connecting itself, and a great continuation for the Hercules title as well. The stakes are high, but it doesn’t take itself so seriously that it stops being fun. The characters are compelling, the story is intriguing, and the action is varied, showcasing a lot more than how good Hercules is at punching. It also builds upon the world for anyone not as familiar with the gods and mystical side of the Marvel Universe.
If you have a general understanding of what was going on in the comics at the time without having read a lot of them, like myself, the book is quite accessible too. I would recommend starting with Against the World, though, to better understand Hercules and Amadeus.