The Hero: Book One by David Rubin.
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The Hero: Book One
Written and Illustrated by David Rubin.
Translated into English and reprinted by Dark Horse Comics.
David Rubin has crafted something so fresh and unique out of such an incredibly old tale that it just shouldn't be possible not to mention as much fun as it is to experience. The Hero: Book One is here nonetheless, and it deserves to be recognized as the fantastic work that it is.
Rubin's art stands out to me from just about everything else on the shelf, with bold lines, bright colors, and boundless energy. Honestly, the cartooning in this book is some of my personal favorite of all time. When I sit around the house procrastinating/daydreaming about being an artist, even my daydreamed art isn't as wonderful as the work Rubin is putting down. I know he was tapped by Paul Pope to be a contributor for the continuation of his Battling Boy world of books, and a lot of comic readers are already familiar with his work, but unfortunately I haven't gotten around to reading those yet and so I was sort of unprepared for the artistic assault that this book contained. His lines are clean but brushed boldly giving it a sense of awe and depth in those lines. If forced, I simply couldn't find a page in this particular work that wasn't gorgeous. The book is also immaculately designed and begins the story of our protagonist on the very first endpaper with an illustration of Heracles still in utero, his destiny still in flux, and gives you the feeling that Rubin just cannot wait to get the story started.
Book one opens with the destiny of Heracles and Eurystheus being foretold. One of them is destined to be a sadistic tyrant, and while the other will be destined to be a hero of great renown, he will also be forced to be the servant of the tyrant. The consequences of Heracles not obeying Eurystheus are shown early on as he's hit from on high with a lightning bolt for seemingly only contemplating disobedience.
Just as Rubin's art style rides the line between dark and light the story he is reimagining and his portrayal of the characters does the same. Eurystheus is portrayed as a murderous and demented sociopath but one who is himself being manipulated by the gods, maybe so much that he is incapable of being any other way. Heracles is shown as a natural hero, thinking of the problems of others before himself, but unable to be as effective as he could be due to his bond to Eurystheus.
Rubin doesn't hit you over the head with the themes he's exploring, but they are there; what it means to be a hero, free will vs. destiny, faith in higher powers, and how being destined to be a hero is a lot like being cursed in how the Heracles story pans out.
The setting for the story is classical and modern in the same breath, a retro punk retelling of Greek Gods in modern day clothing advertisements. A world where Cell phones, airplanes, computers, and motorcycles all exist in the same world as the Greek pantheon. Whether we are being told a story of ancient Greece with modern technologies or some strange modern era that is home to an actual pantheon of gods is left up to our interpretation.
There's also a risqué cameo from a certain Amazon that is NSFW and graphic depictions of violence but given the source material I don't think anyone should be shocked.
The only thing that struck me as a little bit odd was Rubin's portrayal of Poseidon, who looks like a muppet Cthulhu via Futurama instead of the way he's been illustrated every other time I've ever seen. But it's a fun scene and still manages to match the overall style of the book. You can tell the creator has a deep appreciation of the classic myths but he isn't letting those old tales tie his hands. He's still able to weave beats of humor and surprise into what could easily be referred to as a tired tale.
This book was so much fun to read it seemed to fly by in seconds and I honestly can't wait to read it again or to dive into Book Two. So the only warning any reader really needs is to try not to cut your fingers on those pages while you're racing to the back cover.
Heracles is the hero you need to read.