I’ve loved Ancient Greek mythology and history since my childhood. It is such a big deal to me that I chose to get a degree in Classics of all things. During my time in school, I came up with the brilliant concept for a story in which I would take gods and heroes from my favorite myths and put a science fiction spin on them. Lemme see Achilles and Hector fight in giant mecha suits! Well, imagine my surprise when I discovered Titan Comic’s fantastic HERCULES: WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1. The comic is a WARHAMMER: 40K and GEARS OF WAR-inspired take on The Twelve Labors of Hercules

Written by JD Morvan and illustrated by Looky & Olivier Thill, HERCULES: WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1 presents a universe that is both beautiful and brutal — much like the myths it is based on. I’m happy to say that even though it’s a sci-fi adaptation of an ancient myth, it still feels more authentic than the majority of films and games based on mythology. Even though the gods have different names (axiomatikos) and though Hercules is a super soldier with a spaceship and the Nemean Lion is robotic, the little touches, like with the funeral rites performed by the grieving farmer, reassure me that the writing team did their research. Well, except for the fact that the characters use Greek words and yet the hero is the Roman variant of Herakles — but that’s just the nit-picky classicist in me. I know it’s a marketing thing, but Herakles still sounds cooler.

The 12 Labors, But with Spaceships This Time

Anyway, the plot generally follows the basic story structure of Hercules’ Labors. Hercules (son of Zeus and the human woman Alcmene) is driven mad by the many-times-over betrayed Hera, wife of Zeus. The hero killed his family in a burst of god-stricken rage, and in seeking redemption, he performs numerous trials to appease the gods. HERCULES: WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1 mostly sticks to the myth, but covers it with a shiny coat of paint. In this issue, Apollo’s Oracle tasks Hercules to report to King Eurystheus and follow his orders. His first mission: kill the Nemean Lion.

READ: Interested in mythology in comics? Check out this analysis of Marvel’s THOR!

HERCULES: WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1
Courtesy of Titan Comics.

After landing on planet Nemea, Herc gains the help of a farmer who lost his family to the savage metal beast. The hunt for the lion is one of my favorite sequences. While Herc fights the lion on the ground, the ship’s AI assists him from the air. It had me on the edge of my seat!

While tracking the retreating lion, Hercules comes across something I did not expect — a blue alien man. At first, I was a little disappointed. They didn’t seem to base this character in myth at all. It also would’ve been easy to make another galactic faction with centaurs or satyrs, not something from your run-of-the-mill sci-fi universe. However, in his confrontation with Hercules, he says something ominous about the other races in the galaxy. This scene really turned my opinion on him around. I know that’s vague, but I can’t just reveal everything here!

The Gods Are Fickle

It’s an odd thing to discuss the personality and nuance of adaptations of ancient myth. Generally, in the myths themselves, gods and heroes were far from nuanced. That’s kinda the point: to be larger-than-life characters that everyone could understand. That’s why I’m not gonna be too harsh on our main character, “Angry Tough Guy.” The many iterations of Hercules in modern media are just as one dimensional. Whether you’re talking about Disney’s Herc or the old muscle men of Peplum films, the (in)famous hero has never really had much depth. The Kevin Sorbo Hercules being an exception, of course.

I found the side characters in HERCULES to be more interesting than the big man himself. The scene where the farmer performs the funeral rites for his family, putting coins in their mouths for the ferryman of the dead, was downright heartbreaking.

READ: Need more space Marine super badasses in your life? Check out this review of WARHAMMER: 40K VOL 1!

Maybe Don’t Tattoo Your Name On Your Back?

While the illustrations don’t necessarily pay homage to ancient art, they are nonetheless competent examples of sci-fi aesthetics. Personally, I would have liked to see more than a passing reference to black-and-red figure pottery. However, judging it objectively, the art is an engrossing depiction of verdant worlds, hi-tech spaceships, and grungy soldiers. The choreography and composition of the fight scenes are superb. The ending had me craving the next issue to see the conclusion of the first labor. I can appreciate a good fight scene no matter the art style.

I have one petty grievance that I honestly couldn’t get over: Hercules’ hideous back tattoo. It says his fucking name across his shoulders with a lame Ed Hardy-style skull and rose design underneath. No tattoo is always better than a bad tattoo, especially when you could have done something stylish like Kratos from GOD OF WAR’s stripe.

HERCULES: WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1
Courtesy of Titan Comics.

Final Thoughts on HERCULES: WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1

Aside from a few minor grievances, HERCULES: WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1 is a fantastic comic. The concept alone is something I’ve wanted to see for a long time, but the execution really makes it special. I assure you that if you’ve ever been interested in either Greek mythology or space Marines, you’ll have a lot of fun with this.

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HERCULES: WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1 by JD Morvan and Looky & Olivier Thill
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
HERCULES: WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1 is a captivating futuristic adaptation of the most well-known Greek myth. The concept alone is gold, but it's reinforced by compelling writing.
86 %
A Modern Sci-Fi Take On A Classic Myth
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