Assault on New Olympus #1, Incredible Hercules #140

Posted by on March 10th, 2010 at 9:00 AM


Assault #1; Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, writers, Rodney Buchemi, penciler, inks uncredited.

Incredible Hercules no. 140; Pak, Jeff Parker and Van Lente, writers, Buchemo, penciler; inks, color uncredited.

Assault on New Olympus is routine crap, but it’s routine crap about the Marvel heroes fighting the Greek gods. When I was eight, I would have killed to open the cover of this comic book. Of course, I’m not eight. Now Assault finally exists and I don’t care. I have to remind myself I’ve been cheated by fate.

Why don’t kids today who are 9 or 10 want to read Assault on New Olympus? There’s the inbred-continuity effect, but 9 or 10 is a good age for heavy-duty reading about dumb things. Kids have just locked in their literacy skills and want to try something substantial, something that repeats its points often and goes into a great deal of colorful detail and proceeds by means of splashy but routine set-pieces. Nine or 10 was a good age for the lousy crossovers I read in the ’70s. If anything, I’d say Assault is a little better for dialogue. “What? What did you just say to your queen?” and “Come on! Find this monstrosity’s weak point!” would have taken up a lot more space in Marvelese of the early ’70s.

Scale makes a difference, I suppose. Aren’t there more issues per crossover nowadays? But it seems to me that my young self would have waded through Assault pretty successfully. Back then I wanted exposition, I wanted to buy more issues. Having the gods and heroes fight would have made me happy, but having them fight amid heavy exposition and over the course of many issues would have made me even happier.

Of course, kids can’t afford all those issues, but they can’t afford Harry Potter either. At various local libraries I’ve seen some superhero trades that look like they’ve circulated a lot. But apparently times haven’t changed enough for librarians to become the backbone of the superhero market.

Wheatcakes. Wiki says Incredible Hercules has been noted for its “distinctive humor.” But the writing on view here isn’t really funny. I’d say it was jaunty, kind of like office humor. Inside-baseball references are matched with standard little asides that the characters can drop into a given situation. Aunt May says she’ll serve everyone her wheat cakes, so a character says, “We’re all dead.” Spider-Man gets a pile of cars tossed on him and can’t dig out. “Little help over here?” he says. “Please? Bueller?”

The approach isn’t too surprising in present-day hero comics. But the jokes do bring out a point about the recent Empowered special. That story made the Marvel “one last mighty effort” into its climax and did so without making fun of the gimmick. The heroine’s meltdown is treated as a wonderful thing, her emotional liberation, and it also allows her to knock over the villain. Whereas the kickoff issue to Assault replays the original “mighty effort” for laughs. When Spider-Man’s buried under the cars, he prefaces his “Bueller?” with a recap of his great deed down in the Master Planner’s lair all those years ago. Maybe that’s what makes the humor here “distinctive.” It’s not the Bueller joke, it’s that a fan shibboleth gets used as the Bueller joke’s set-up.

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