Comics

Hercules #1

William Gatevackes

Both Caliber and Hercules offer fresh takes on age-old concepts, but with mixed results.


Hercules #1

Publisher: Radical
Length: 28
Writer: Steve Moore
Price: $1.00
Contributors: Admira Wijaya (Artist)
US publication date: 2008-05
Amazon

Caliber #1

Publisher: Radical
Length: 32
Writer: Sam Sarkar
Price: $1.00
Contributors: Garrie Gastonny (artist)
US publication date: 2008-05
Amazon

Starting a new comic book company in this day and age is a dicey proposition. One way of getting your company off on the right foot is to publish a comic with characters or concepts that readers already know. This can be done one of two ways. One is to license a popular movie, TV show or novel. But the rights to these properties can be expensive and the rewards minimal. Another way is to scour the public domain for rights-free properties to adapt.

Radical Comics chose the latter for its first two offerings, Caliber and Hercules. Both offer fresh takes on age-old concepts, but the end result is mixed at best.

Caliber updates the legend of King Arthur, taking it from 6th Century England and transporting it to the 19th Century Wild West. Instead of an ancient wizard, we now have a Native American Shaman. Instead of the glory of Camelot, we now have a pioneer town in the Pacific Northwest. And instead of a mystical sword that can cut through anything, we have a mystical gun that never misses.

On paper, this update sounds intriguing, “can’t miss” even. However, Caliber's execution misfires badly.

The first issue of the five-issue series acts as many first issues do in these days of deconstructed storytelling. It is basically a prologue to the rest of the series. It is one big, needlessly padded info dump. And it is a clumsily written one, at that.

The dialogue is clumsy, the characterization is clumsy and the storytelling is clumsy. Events that need better explanation are glossed over and scenes that could be handled in one panel receive four.

Characters are not properly introduced. The Morgan le Fey character appears out of nowhere, sleeps with the Merlin character (a Native American Shaman named Jean Michel), and then their relationship is sort of explained in an excessively wordy, post-coital panel. When characters are well defined in the story, they are made to act illogically just to move the plot along.

The writing isn’t helped by the artwork. It appears that Garrie Gastonny’s pencils were digitally colored to give the illusion of painted artwork. The effect they are going for is a dark and mysterious mood, but the result is a murky and confusing mess. The characters are stilted and wooden and have a sameness about them. Being that this is a western and most of the characters are wearing very similar clothing, this adds to the confusion.

Hercules, however, succeeds where Caliber failed. Its first issue serves mostly as an introduction to the characters and their status quo, but does this task well and in an entertaining manner. And it takes Steve Moore and Admira Wijaya less pages to do it, to boot.

Caliber’s writer Sam Sarkar should take notes from Moore’s writing on this issue, because this is a textbook case of storytelling at its finest. He knows when to let the artwork tell the story. He knows how to present exposition in an entertaining manner. And he knows how to introduce a large cast in such a way that they all have easily identifiable character traits.

He is helped on art. All the characters have a defined, individual look. You can tell who’s who even when you can’t see their face. The reason for this might have to do with the fact that some, if not all, of the characters in the series were designed by comic legend Jim Steranko. They apply the same coloring technique here as they did in Caliber, but to much better effect.

Radical publisher Barry Levine states in an essay in the back of both books that he wants to publish stories that are not just good, but great. Well, he’s halfway there. Caliber is a muddled mess that turns the reader away, but Hercules is an exciting, if somewhat gruesome, tale which makes you really want to pick up the next issue.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.