One of the things people routinely ask me to write about is The Incredible Hercules, mostly because it’s a good comic book and they want people to talk about good comic books that “fly under the radar.” Except I’m not sure how The Incredible Hercules can be considered “under the radar,” because everybody fucking talks about Incredible Hercules and how good it is: Newsarama, Comics Should Be Good, Robot 6, Chris Sims, Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo’s Buck Wild Comics Blog, everybody. And it still only sells a healthy-but-relatively-small number of copies. (I buy the hardcovers.) So basically the internet is worthless for pimping a comic regardless of quality: indeed, superhero fans have at this point been trained to more or less ignore quality in favour of “importance” whenever the choice is forced upon them.
(Which is not to say that an “important” story can’t also be a good one, but: priorities.)
But beyond the effectiveness of me pimping it, I also question whether it is deserving of pimpery. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy The Incredible Hercules – obviously I do. But I really think people overestimate its craftworthiness on the basis that it manages what a lot of superhero fare doesn’t these days: it is a well written, light and entertaining comic book. (And it has some flaws. In a few years’ time when people revisit these arcs, I’m pretty sure people will look at the use of Amadeus Cho’s smartness turning him into a Bullseye replacement and go “wait, how does being smart give you good motor reflexes and hand-eye coordination?” This is not a major quibble, of course – it just needs to be said that Incredible Hercules is not a perfect book.)
I’m just gonna pause for a second here because it’s worth reflecting upon how few Big Two books are good as opposed to merely being competent. For DC there’s Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, and Secret Six. For Marvel there’s Incredible Hercules, Invincible Iron Man, the “cosmic” books, and whatever comic fills the Iron Fist slot for any given month. That is it at present. (Daredevil‘s new direction is uneven, Captain America is in a boring lull period, and Amazing Spider-Man is inconsistent on a week-to-week basis.) Eight books between the Big Two that are genuinely good comics and not just placefillers.
I’ll go further than that, though, and say that there are exactly two ongoing runs right now that aren’t just good but indeed excellent, and those are Invincible Iron Man and Detective Comics (which I have seriously come around on after a rereading plus the effect of the two most recent issues). And my simple definition of “excellent” is this: if the run came to an end with the next issue, would I be disappointed that it was over?
And with Hercules, the answer would be “not really.” It’s a good comic in all ways, but I don’t feel any deep-seated need to talk about it, analyze it, or reread it again and again. (Even my hardcovers sit unread, and I’m a compulsive rereader.) I can’t speak as to why, either. It’s basically the greatest comic book you don’t need to think about – which is why it’s so hard to write about.
(But how about that Invincible Iron Man? Huh? Huh?)
EDIT TO ADD: Ilan is right: I forgot Fantastic Four, which belongs in the “good” category. Also: Ghost Rider. But that’s it.