Sunday, April 27, 2008

Radical Comics Reviews – Hercules #1 and Caliber #1

I always love to see new publishers enter the market place. It is fun to try and discern their marketing and business plans from the outside looking in. My first career was in banking and finance so that side of things always appeals to me. Sometimes I believe a publisher enters the fray with the idea to just make good comics and see where that goes and then develops a plan as they go along. Others seem to have a direction from the jump, but they all give us more choices and that is a good thing.

In order for this to work, the fans (me and everyone else) have to buy some of their offerings so they have a chance to grow and develop. Radical is making it very easy, for 1/3 of the cost of a regular comic and ¼ of the cost of many books lately you can try out one of these books. Each #1 is only $1 with 22 pages of story and art, so get to you store Wednesday and buy one and if you like it add to your pull list.

Hercules: The Thracian Wars #1 (of 5) – Writer Steve Moore, Art Admira Wijaya, Colors Imaginary Friends Studios

The story opens with two of Hercules comrades going to Thrace to meet with the King who has hired them to be mercenaries and train their army. The King’s palace is just the one halfway decent building surrounded by a large fence. Cotys, the King greets the men inside of an eating hall surrounded by drunken countrymen. The Thracians then mock Hercules and the Grecians in general. The Grecians tell their version of what Hercules is like. This was a great starting point as we get to see what perhaps the “real” world of the time looked like and perhaps what Hercules really was as opposed to a mythological demi-god.

Hercules and the rest of his warriors arrive in the hallway. The insults continue back and forth. You get a sense that this is not going to go well for Hercules and his group of people. They have only eight versus a highway of drunks true, but still a lot of people. Enter another man dressed in full armor and when he sees it is Hercules he repeats what appears to be a running joke that everyone expects him to be bigger. He proceeds to insult Hercules and his prowess. Hercules tells him to stand near an object and he will show him how well he can shot his arrows. Hercules shoots the warrior through his armor plated chest plate and pins him into a stone wall and all hell breaks loose in hall.

A bloody battle ensues and Hercules and his group kills almost everyone in the hall including King Cotys. They were invited to Thrace to be mercenaries and after the battle they wonder why this happened. Also they realize these men were not fighters at all. It feels wrong and something is not adding up.

As they leave the hall they walk out and have an army of soldiers staring at them and the real King Cotys is walking towards them and looks extremely pissed.

Now my summary does not do justice to the actual writing. Steve Moore uses one of Hercules’s men as the narrator. The way he tells it and the tone he gives the book has both a matter of fact tone to it and a tone that implies world weariness. The beats of the writing is just so well done, that I grasping for the right way to describe it. It feels like the telling of an epic tale, but doing it from a ground level.

The art work is extremely well done. The design and layout of the pages make the story flow very well. The narration, dialogue and art work together to tell the story and move you panel by panel. When I first starting reading the use I thought the use of Grecian names would really hurt the story flow as I find it difficult to get into a story if I can’t pronounce the names that I’m reading. This was not the case as the art and story were such a perfect blend that I just keep going forward page by page. The style is a realistic style that works very well for this story. It has the barbarian type vibe, yet feels like true Ancient history.

All around this was an excellent comic. If you have read the recent run on Incredible Hercules from Marvel and enjoyed the flashback to the ancient Greece stories of Hercules in that book, pick this book up, if you liked the 300 picked this book up, if you want to read a good graphic novel’s first chapter, pick up this book.

Hercules: The Thracian War is an epic saga and we get a front row seat. Grade “A” If you pass this book up for $1, you are making a big mistake.

Caliber #1 (of 5) – First Canon of Justice – Writer Sam Sarkar, Art Garrie Gastonny, Colors Imaginary Friends Studio

This is a very different comic book story that starts in the Old West. We open as a man (jean Michael) who we learn is half French and half American Indian is trying to generate a vision. He is a mystic and he has a mission to find out who should wield this special gun. As we see him trying to learn who is supposed to give the gun to we also see his vision of a World War in the future. He asks what this war is and he is told it is six generations removed. If the sixth generation does not accept the law, the world will end. His mission is to find the person who should have this gun and teach how to use and when not to use it and that person will be the Lawbringer.

At the same time we are being introduced to a town in the old west that the railroad is going through. We have the Chinese who are building the railroad and are being treated as essentially a sub-human labor class and an American Indian reservation that appears to be in the way of the rail road’s easiest path.

We meet a young man who runs to his father after learning of a Chinese worker is being treated unjustly. His father is the Captain of an army troop that appears to be providing security for the railroad. His father tells his son that he has to let the local sheriff handle it as it is not his jurisdiction. Then the father goes to investigate a ranch where it appears all were killed by the Indians. We know from an early scene it was not Indians, but a group of men in masks. The Captain is not jumping to judgment about who did despite the planted “evidence”.

This is all set-up for a powder keg that is about to explode. Right before the explosion our mystic Jean Michael turns up and gives the gun to Captain Pendergon, assuming he is the chosen one. The Captain goes out to the reservation to question the Indians about the killings. The Indians deny any involvement, but the tension is high as the Captain and his man have marched onto Indian land. The railroad guy is off and hidden nearby and orders the Captain to be shot, which causes a war between the Indians and the Calvary. The Captain in the midst of the battle tries to fire the gun and a lighting bolt kills him. Jean Michael is confused as the vision showed the Captain’s face, but we know he is just a generation off. The story ends with both sides losing a lot of people and the young boy getting the noticed his Dad has died.

The art work was stellar on this book as well. The polished look and high productions values appear to be one of the qualities we can look for from Radical comics. The art work had an illustrators touch to it, realistic, but not so photo realistic as to take away from the story, just art that you would enjoy in any book that had a dramatic tone to it.

The story is fascinating. We have a mystical weapon which we know will make it to a young’s man hands and we also know this story stretches out for generations. I hope that the entire story will not be in one five issue arc, as I love the concept, art and story so much I want each holder of the weapon to have their own five issue arc, as I assume we have to have the weapon move from generation to generation.

This is another winning title from Radical Comics. Caliber is a western tale with mystic overtones and looks to be a saga that stretches across decades. Grade “A”.

The best $2 you spend to end the month of April will be buying Hercules #1 and Caliber #1.


  1. Wow, Jim! Thank you for showing much love to Radical with your amazing review. Reviews like this make all the hard work everyone involved put in, worth it big time.

  2. I recently picked up these two issues. I've been collecting comics since I was nine (I'm in my mid-30's now) but I don't think I've been wowed by a comic since my mid-teens.

    These two comics wowed me.
    The art is phenomenal, the writing flows well and the focus on charater is truly excellent.

    This is a Hercules that Robert E. Howard would be proud of. And Caliber's Arthurian undertones has me very excited.

    It's because of these two issues that I've decieded to leave mainstream comics for a spell and see what the little guys are doing. Now the hardest choice is whether to get these two series in monthly or trade format.

    Decisions, decisions.