For a mini-series that I’m predicting will remove Hercules, a C-lister, from the forefront of the Marvel Universe, GODS OF WAR #1 is incredibly detailed in terms of characterization. Though his self-titled book is on hold, this CIVIL WAR II miniseries highlights Herc’s vulnerability throughout. Emilio Laiso’s fight scenes break up what would otherwise be an extremely intense issue, making it palatable to the casual reader.

The book opens on Hercules, alone in a bar, staring at a full glass of whiskey. In walks Amadeus Cho, who promptly turns into the Hulk as a means to skirt around New York’s liquor laws. Interrupted by the near-extinction level event that opens CIVIL WAR II, Hulk and Herc join the fray, only for Hercules to realize that he was not called upon to help. His lament leads him back to the Astoria apartment he shares with Gilgamesh to assemble the Gods of War, an EXPENDABLES-type team of mythological powerhouses who we’ll certainly be seeing as the series progresses.

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In GODS OF WAR #1, writer Dan Abnett gives readers a rare glimpse into the heart of Hercules, sans his characteristic bravado. Abnett takes care to set up a great deal of emotional groundwork for what can only result in some sort of dynamic change for Hercules. We learn that Hercules has not fallen off the wagon but that whenever he feels his weakest, the ancient hero orders a drink and stares at it as a test of strength.

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Though we saw Hercules trying to get his act together in his solo series, it was unclear just how all-consuming his hedonistic lifestyle had become. This conveys an incredibly powerful message: that addiction (and using a larger scope, mental illness) can afflict anyone, even a god.

Of course, the book’s emotionally-charged introduction does not mean that it is lacking in physical action. Laiso takes over for Luke Ross and produces some truly dynamic art. After Abnett rounds up three of the Marvel Universe’s hardest hitters, Laiso delivers an incredible few pages of She-Hulk, Hercules, and the Hulk tearing through scores of the Celestial’s guardians, backed by a veritable “who’s who” of Marvel heroes. Laiso is able to draw attention to minute details amidst his sprawling cityscapes, such as the determination on She-Hulk’s face or the point of impact from Mjolnir.

READ: For the inside scoop on the All-New, All-Different Marvel lineup, check out our progress report on the changes to the Marvel Universe!

Still, something about these wider scenes doesn’t quite sync up with the rest of the book. Though eye-catching, and intense, they lack a certain sense of movement. In larger scenes, even characters in motion seem stagnant. Maybe it’s intentional and Laiso intended these larger scenes to look more like snapshots than depictions of bodies in motion, but it feels out of place in comparison to his smaller-scoped panels.

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The full extent of Laiso’s talent comes out in panels with a clear focus, such as the conversation between Herc and Amadeus Cho in the bar. Laiso is able to perfectly portray Hercules, the world’s first superhero, in what might be his darkest hour, drained of motivation and plagued by sadness stemming from the realization that he has outlived his own legacy. Up close, it’s easy to appreciate Laiso’s attention to detail, which, in terms of figures, translates to a very striking depiction of emotion.

READ: Want more HERCULES? Check out our analysis of how Marvel erased the sexual history of the world’s oldest hero!

I have a sinking feeling that Hercules might be on his way out of the Marvel Universe. However, for the minimal levels of importance his character has had over the last few years, he’s being given quite the send-off. If you in any way enjoyed the story that had been unfolding in HERCULES, you’ll love GODS OF WAR #1. Abnett’s dialogue has yet to falter, and we’re finally given some intense character development, which is sadly still a rare occurrence in superhero books. In terms of art, Laiso is able to capture both the frantic motion of giant brawls spanning entire city blocks as well as the stillness seen in Herc’s realization that he had been left out by Iron Man and Captain Marvel, when the rest of the super-powered world had been called in to help.

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