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Sunday, 23 July 2017

Hercules Unbound 1 - Hercules begins

Gerry Conway, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Wally Wood launch another series in the Conan the Barbarian vein, Hercules Unbound, which begins with the Oct/Nov 75 issue. This one also mixes in some Greek mythology, and even fits itself into the Great Disaster time frame.

The story opens as the demigod Hercules finds himself abruptly freed from a chained captivity on a small, deserted island in the Mediterranean. He has no idea why this has happened, but has little time to ponder it as he sees a young boy and his dog on a sailboat, being attacked by a monster.

Hercules saves the boy, Kevin, and his dog, Basil, and only then discovers that the boy is blind.

Kevin explains to Hercules that he was on a vacation with his father in Athens when nuclear war broke out. He believes his father died in the blast, while he and his dog took refuge in a shelter for two weeks. When Kevin emerged after that he found the city in ruins, full of raging, mutated scavengers. He grabbed a sailboat and fled into the sea, which is how he wound up on Hercules' island.

In this saga Hercules is the enemy of Ares. If it's Hercules, it should be Mars. If it's Ares, it should be Heracles, but whatever. Wonder Woman had been mixing up the Greek and Roman pantheons long before this book came around. Anyway, we get to see how Ares has been manipulating both sides of the nuclear war, caring not about who wins and loses, but just fanning the flames for his own power.

Hercules explains to Kevin how Ares, and the other gods, like to toy with humans and demigods like himself. He had believed that Ares was a friend until the god turned on him and had him bound on the island, and shrouded it with invisibility so no one would ever find him. Hercules is unsure of whether the war caused that to end, or Ares released him on purpose for some reason.

The pair and the dog head to Rome, and Hercules fights a minotaur along the way. In Rome he confronts Ares, who released a giant purple war-beast to fight him. Ares does not seem at all surprised to see Hercules, so one has to assume the god wanted the hero freed. Kevin winds up coming to Hercules' aid with his slingshot, killing the war-beast. Only when it is dead does Kevin discover that it was his own father, transformed by Ares.

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