The Hero (Book One) by David Rubín
Dark Horse Books, 2015
Imagine if the story of Heracles (or Hercules, as the Romans re-named him) had taken place in a sort-of modern-day Greece. A Greece where Gods, monsters, and bad guys still abound, but with the aid of television, radios, and cars. You would end up with The Hero, a reimagining of the Heracles myth by Spanish artist David Rubín.
Rubín follows the myths closely, and The Hero details the story of Heracles and Eurystheus, though here Heracles is not performing his twelve labors out of punishment. Here, Hera and Eurystheus come together to try to destroy Heracles — for different but similar jealous reasons. The ways in which he completes his labors, and the nature of the labors themselves have been changed, but in a way that reflects a more modern Heracles. Eurystheus is imagined as a tiny, sociopathic, Geoffrey-type ruler who sits in his chambers and miserably watches, on a large television screen, Heracles succeed.
Heracles becomes an icon in the media, as a modern-day superhero would. Rubín is challenges us to see the downside of media involvement, as we experience when reading superhero comics. There is a scene where the philosopher Eurytus and Heracles’ teacher Chiron are debating (on the RADIO) about whether Heracles’ appearance in media is causing him harm or helping him. Eurytus argues: “What’s the harm in recognizing the boy’s merits? He’s a hero.” Chiron counters with “You said it, Eurytus. He’s a hero, not a circus monkey or an excuse to sell more magazines, action figures, and gym memberships. He’s a Hero, by the Gods!! A HERO!!!”
One of the reasons I love this graphic novel so much is that it is in full-color. There are glossy pages, and it’s overall a beautiful hardbound volume. Rubín put a lot of work into making each two-page spread cohesive and uncluttered. While his illustrations are bold, fight scenes remain easy to follow and blood is as tastefully rendered as possible. And his monsters … his monsters are awesome.He said in an interview with Destroy Comics about his interest in monsters:
“[…]in my country, Galicia, we have a huge ancient tradition of monsters, ghouls, and other weird creatures like wolfmen or phantoms – a lot like what happens in Scotland or in Japan with the yokai and traditional historical folktales.
My country is very different from the rest of Spain. We don’t have “Toreros” or “Sevillanas” and it rains a whole lot, but we have so many stories about monsters and phantoms instead. That works better for me!”
He has a similar illustration style to Paul Pope, author of Battling Boy, and he worked with Pope on the second volume of the series The Rise of Aurora West. Rubín clearly has honed his craft, and we should look forward to ANYTHING he touches.
The Hero (Book Two) will be released in December. I also hear that a Spanish version of a Beowulf comic he illustrated will be released soon in English!
If you’re looking for an interesting take on the myth of Heracles, then look no further than The Hero. If you want to read more monster comics, then check out Paul Pope’s Battling Boy or Hellboy by Mike Mignola.
This post was written by Stacia Oparowski, a library assistant in technical services. Besides reading and reviewing graphic novels, she also participates each year in NaNoWriMo and writes the November updates. If you have a suggestion for a graphic novel she should review or if you would like a graphic novel recommendation, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.