The Chaos King assaults the nether lands of the Marvel Universe. It's up to Hercules and a select group of gods and goddesses to stop him.
I really enjoyed Chaos War. Given that I quit reading Marvel comics at the point of Civil War I haven't seen the Marvel universe come together in a long time. So, this was a real treat for me.
Hercules in the previous issue united the heroes for an all out strike against the Chaos King. The King, however, already killed Nightmare and exploited the creature's dream power to incapacitate humanity. Despite that, the evil god cannot affect those of deific origin.
One of the neat little concepts in the Marvel Universe is that all of the gods are actually immortal, high alien beings. Jack Kirby, as usual, established the idea when he introduced the Eternals, a pantheon of space gods, inspired somewhat by Erich Von Daniken's hucksterism, which devoured the '70s.
John Byrne ran with the idea in The Fantastic Four for his superb "Trial of Reed Richards." Odin takes the stand to testify on behalf of Reed. It was this juxtaposition of the alien Lilandra and the mythical Odin that made me realize that Asgard was an alien world that became myth because of the longevity of the inhabitants. It was essentially Gallifrey. The godly magic was advanced science that followed Clarke's Law. Indeed, even Asgardian magic required certain rules. Thor's hammer, for example, though fantastic still had to be forged. Odin constructed another "magical" hammer for Beta-Ray Bill. He didn't make one appear out of thin air.
In Chaos War magic and science fiction merges for a satisfying global defense. Hercules is no longer just a strong man. He has been beefed up to Zeus status, but he doesn't have the wisdom to fully control his godly power. Nevertheless, Hercules enacts some "miraculous" saves that impress even Thor. The Chaos King, though, is surreptitious. What seems to be a full scale invasion of Hell actually has a double-edged purpose and that exemplifies the vicious and cunning nature of Herc's foe.
Pak and Van Lente keep the ramifications of this hostile takeover believably bloodless. Abstaining from death, grue and gore keeps Chaos War in the realms of wonder and allows their clever twists in plot and their understanding of the characters to stand out.
To symbolize their intent, the writers have Herc call a classic Marvel being. What a fun thing to see after all these years and the riotous dialogue between Herc and the creature makes for an enjoyable red herring that factors in continuity.
Hercules' next recruit offers even more diverting pleasures. Again, his choices make sense, reflecting not only the best heroes to fight the Chaos King's machinations but also his history with the Avengers. The dialogue scribed with a light, bouncy touch fits the character's personality and her interaction with Hercules ring true.
The showstopper comes when Herc brings out the Galactus can of whupass. I wasn't aware that the Silver Surfer was back in Galactus' employ, but his inclusion crafts some splendid little moments that emphasize the power levels between gods and goddesses and those with the power cosmic. The equivalency on display reveals the tapestry Kirby wove thirty years ago.
If amusing dialogue, lovely characterization and clever plotting fail to persuade you, perhaps Koi Pham's, Thomas Palmer's, and Sunny Gho's masterful illustrations can. Pham and Palmer make these gods live up to the sobriquet. They accent the majesty and power of Thor through a lesson in scale. Thor though comparatively smaller than a DC-10 nevertheless holds it in the air in an awesome scene. Hercules, though a so-called “super god” still behaves like Hercules and occasionally ends up with egg on his expressive face. Hela storms onto the stage. The Chaos King manifests as a frightening creature with Hieronymus Bosch styled proportions and Geiger grin. Venus plies her beauty and her voice. Every panel just exceeds in creating the illusion of a larger than life battle waged by gods in the arena of earth.
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