Friday, May 2, 2014


Writer & Finished Art: Bob Layton | Pencil Art: Ron Lim
Colors: Mike Cavallaro & Deep 6 | Letters: Dave Sharpe
Editors: Mark Paniccia & Charlie Beckerman | Zeus-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

Bob Layton's final outing with Hercules, published over twenty years after the MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS serial, begins with a quick teaser sequence in which Hercules suffers brain damage saving planet Wilamean from a terrorist attack. The action then jumps a year forward, to the 75th anniversary celebration of Hercules' triumph over Galactus on Ciegrim-7, as seen in the original limited series.

The festivities are short-lived, however, as, not far away, Galactus accidentally absorbs the energy of a black hole and becomes an enormous singularity which threatens to consume first Wilamean and then the entire Andromeda galaxy. Hercules eventually sacrifices himself to save the day, but not before an epic battle with Galactus's latest herald. Galactus is restored to normal and soon after, Hercules is reborn as well -- as Cosmos, the Bringer of Worlds.

Along the way we get numerous nods to Layton's past stories, as well as the fates of the rest of the supporting cast. Skyppi finally succumbs to old age and passes away. The Recorder is upgraded to become a cyborg by his Rigellian creators. We see young Emperor Arimathes as an elder statesman, still the Emperor of Wilamean. Arimathes has three children now, as well -- Juno, Anotinitus, and Ursus (though one of the three does not survive the series) -- meaning Hercules has fulfilled the mission set before him by Zeus at the end of his second limited series, and has sired a new race of gods. Layana Sweetwater shows up as well, the founder of the terrorist cell which has plagued Wilamean for decades.

If the above sounds like a lot to cram into a four-issue story, it is. And some of it probably should've been cut. We barely get a sense of the characters of Hercules' grandchildren, other than that they all seem to be, in their own ways, as impetuous as their forebear. Layana's appearance is almost like an afterthought in the final issue, and superfluous to the overall story. She wraps up a sub-plot regarding the treachery of Wilamean's prime minister, Spinctor ("comically" referred to by literally everyone in the series as "Sphinctor"), which really serves no purpose to begin with.

But I'd rather focus on the positives, and there are several here. First off, Layton gets to wrap up his future Hercules adventures, which is a nice thing to see, especially since he has very publicly stated that he doesn't see himself ever working for Marvel again. Reading the first two PRINCE OF POWER miniseries, plus FULL CIRCLE and the MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS serial, followed by TWILIGHT OF A GOD, all in immediate succession as I just did, provides a cohesive and complete narrative. There is some unevenness, as noted in past reviews, but overall it all holds up and TWILIGHT makes a nice coda for the whole saga.

Layton's scripting is as fun and light-hearted as ever, with little comical bits thrown into the dialogue (such as everyone referring to the Galactus-black hole hyrbid as "Fat Galactus"), though I have to say that, free of the Comics Code, some of his jokes are a little too off-color when read alongside the previous stories. Also, and this is more of an editorial issue, there are numerous points in the story where Hercules calls Arimathes his father rather than his son. I would assume this to be a result of the brain damage, except for the one occasion where someone else calls Hercules Arimathes's son. It reads like somebody behind the scenes was mixed up over the characters' relationship, possibly due to the fact that Arimathes is, by this point, physically older than his father. But this is a minor quibble. the mood of the story is consistent with past works, and that's the really important thing.

The artwork here is terrific, as well. I have never understood how Ron Lim never became an A-list superstar. I've been a fan of his work since the INFINITY WAR. Back then, he had that Image style flair, but it was merged beautifully with the more conventionally grounded style of a John Byrne or a Sal Buscema. Plus he has always drawn all characters perfectly on model, and he can stick to a monthly schedule, to boot! This seems like a recipe for success to me, and if you had asked me, circa 1993 to 1995 or so, who my favorite comic artist was, I would have said Lim without thinking.

Nowadays, Lim has honed his craft considerably. The figures are a little looser and more dynamic and the faces are more expressive than ever before. He nails the comical moments perfectly, a feat few artists seem able to accomplish, thanks to his perfectly balanced combination of cartooning and "serious" drawing. There are some subtle anime/manga influence present in the work as well, which fits perfectly with his existing style. Again I ask, why isn't this guy headlining (and why has he never headlined) a major series like X-MEN or AVENGERS?

Add to Lim's solid penciling the still gorgeously slick inks of Bob Layton and the absolutely breathtaking colors of Mike Cavallaro and Deep 6 (whoever they are), and you have one magnificent-looking comic book. It's equal parts modern and old school, in the best possible way. If more Marvels looked like this, I'd probably still be a regular reader even in spite of my issues with the stories.

As a story on its own, TWILIGHT is good. As a coda to Layton's decades-in-the-making Hercules opus, it's excellent. There may be a few small misses among its pages, but overall the series is a solid hit. Having just gotten into Layton's Hercules recently, it's been a pleasure to read the entire saga in one swoop. I read TWILIGHT via the Marvel Unlimited app, but I will most likely pick up the trade paperback to accompany the first two Layton HERCULES volumes on my bookcase. The art and colors alone are worth it. The fact that the story is enjoyable too is a bonus.

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