Tuesday, June 1, 2010

God of War #2 Review - Brutally Awesome

I've made no secret on this blog that I love God of War. There are just too few ways to describe the kind of awesome that Kratos and the God of War story brings to the table. With the success of the video games it's only natural that the creators would want to milk this cash cow until it was a withered hide rotting in the Texas sun. As a fan I say milk away! DC Comics and their Wildstorm division put together a nice little mini-series that takes place between the events of God of War 1 and God of War 2 while also taking a trip back into Kratos's past as a Spartan warrior. Under the pen of Marv Wolfman, the story is pretty kick-ass and by God of War standards that ranks at least ten levels above traditional kick-ass.

Issue two picks up where issue one left off. Kratos is now the God of War and in search of the healing Ambrosia of Asclepius. Standing in his way is the usual army of monsters that includes a giant spider that makes the one form Lord of the Rings look like a pussy. But since Kratos no Froto and monsters have a strange tendency to die horrible deaths around Kratos, it's not too big a deal. However, this is not the meat of the story. That tale is far more engaging than the usual slaughter which in and of itself would still be pretty fucking sweet.

Since the first issue, the main story is divided between Kratos's current journey and the one he went on before he became the Ghost of Sparta. This isn't the first time he's sought out Ambrosia of Asclepius. Shortly after the birth of his daughter, Calliope, he makes a promise to save her from death by seeking the healing power of the Ambrosia. Standing in his way are some pretty nasty beasts. As usual, Kratos shows his ass-kicking aptitude in taking them down, but in doing so he reveals another side to himself that wasn't too clear in the game. He may still be a mean, ruthless, bloodthirsty warrior in battle, but he is still a dedicated father and husband at heart. His desire isn't for glory this time. He wants to save his daughter and keep his promise to his wife. For a guy that doesn't have a whole lot of redeeming qualities, this offers some much needed depth that only adds to Kratos's awesome.

The only problem with this premise is that the story about his journey as the new God of War pretty much ends here for this issue. The rest of the issue is spent in the past. That's all well and good but there isn't even a mention of the other story going on. There's no parallels or past musings. While it's nice to keep things in one time, it ignores the other half of the story. Thankfully the half it doesn't ignore is still pretty fucking sweet and could easily stand on it's own.

However, Kratos won't be making this journey alone as he so often has in the games. This time he's going to have some traveling company from his Spartan brethren. Captain Nikos and a contingent of Spartans have caught up to him and seek to accompany him on his quest. It isn't out of sheer charity either (seriously, Spartans were not famous for their charity). Nikos wants to ensure that the Ambrosia of Asclepius is used for the benefit of all Sparta and not just his daughter. It seems reasonable enough, but plenty suspicious. Kratos may be a brute, but he's no fool. Even so, he does what a good Spartan is trained to do and heeds his captain's orders.

In addition to the Spartans, there are other warriors in seek of this Ambrosia of Asclepius for their own reasons. The race to this healing elixir is like a race to keys to Scarlett Johanson's panties and it's not being led on a whim. The god so Olympus are pulling the strings like they always do and it is here where the comic takes on themes that are central to the classic mythology of old.

Just as in the epics of the Illiad and the Oddessy, these gods are not shy about manipulating humans for their own amusement. Forget the merciful and compassionate shit, the Olympians are hardcore and they want to be entertained. Hades has a warrior prince named Alrik who seeks the Ambrosia to save his dying father. Poseidon thinks his warrior, Herodius, is superior because he fights to save his entire village. It's basically a divine dick-measuring contest and since Ares is one of the biggest dicks in mythology, he's got a leg up and they all know it.

Poseidon seems especially intent on not losing to Ares. Maybe it's because Ares gets to bang Aphrodite more than any other god or maybe it's because he was able to rape more boys and woman than he could (that's not a joke by the way, that was remarkably common in Greek mythology), but he doesn't want Kratos to succeed. He's willing to send a plague to the island of Thera to play this game. It goes to show just how cruel and petty these gods were and how far they were willing to go to one-up each other. If Poseidon any of them had any idea what would happen to him in God of War III he would understand. But this is still the past and he quickly sees just how dangerous Ares's favorite champion is when Kratos bitch-slaps the Satyrs.

As a result, Poseidon gets pretty desperate and has Herodius unleash his entire army of Thera upon Kratos. Unfortunately, these are Spartans we're talking about here. In comics and in real history they are without a doubt some of the best warriors in history. They devour war the way American's devour cheeseburgers. It goes without saying that Herodius walks into a hell of a shit storm and his men pay the price.

It eventually leads to a confrontation with Kratos. Here Herodius makes the stupid mistake of trying to gain pity with this guy. He might as well try to sweet talk a hungry grizzly while kicking it in the balls. Even his laments about his people dying aren't enough to change his fate. Kratos could care less. He's out to save his daughter and nothing is going to get in his way. If Herodius's people have to die because of it, so be it.

Needless to say, Poseidon is pretty pissed and pretty emasculated as well. He basically has to endure Ares's gloating for what must be a billion lifetimes in the eyes of a god. His warrior had an entire village riding on him and he couldn't do jack shit against Kratos. In the grand scheme of things the god of the seas should have known better, but like all arrogant gods he underestimated his enemy.

Now for anyone who is familiar with mythology, it's pretty clear what happens next. A mighty god has just been humiliated by a fellow god. What's the most logical recourse? Surely beings as advanced and powerful as gods are above throwing a hissy fit like a 14-year-old girl who just realized she was twenty bucks shy of buying a new Gucci purse. Well as powerful as these beings are, logic is not one of their strong points. They overreact the same way Led Zepplin drinks. They go all out in trashing everybody and everything around them and since the Olympians are usually reluctant to flight each other, they take their rage out on humans. It's the equivilant of punching a pillow for them only doing so inflicts mass death.

The seas turn against Kratos and his men. They get thrown into a storm that makes Hurricane Katrina look like a gentle breeze on a tropical resort. Poseidon goes all out to making sure his manhood remains intact and Ares has fewer reasons to gloat. It seems kind of stupid that Kratos and his Sparten brethren would try to hold their boat, which even by Ancient Greek standards is still pretty shitty, in one piece. But they try and of course they fail. But Poseidon doesn't stop there. He has to rub even more salt in the wound because when you're dealing with the gods, if it isn't horrifically inhumane it's not worth doing. He forms a whirlpool that drags Kratos and his men into the seas. Even for a Spartan, it's not a fair fight and this is where the comic ends.

It's a nasty cliffhanger, but in a good way. The story grabs the reader by the balls (or clit if you're a woman since this is a comic full of hot, muscular Greek men) and keeps squeezing them. The excitement and action makes for a great read and the inclusion of classic Greek Mythology themes offer a real sense of legitimacy. It's not some Disney remake or a total knock-off of the original myths like in other comics. These gods share the same qualities as the ones from thousands of years ago and Kratos fits nicely into that plot. It works so well as a comic it makes you wonder if the Ancient Greeks would be fanboys today if they were still around. Except they would probably demand more comics with attractive young boys to go along with the beautiful women.

But the biggest problem with this issue is that it loses track of the story that began in the first issue. Granted, it does a nice job of fleshing out Kratos's past, but if it's not linked to the events going on in the present then what's the point? It seems like it's just telling it for the sake of telling it and not to make the connection. That's what really keeps this issue from being a strong follow-up to the first issue. That and the art was too dark. I don't mean to say that it didn't fit the theme of the book. It most certainly did. God of War is a dark story all around and the art should reflect that. However, the art here is so dark it's hard to really make out the details of what's going on at times. A little extra color would go a long way to making this comic more vibrant and graphic. A character as bad-ass as Kratos deserves nothing less.

The final tally for issue #2 is a solid 4 out of 5. The story is great and so are the themes that guide it. However, the issue was a bit too narrow with the plot. There are still four issues to go so there's plenty of time to work out the details of the other plot as well. Most God of War fans probably could care less because both stories do an awesome job of demonstrating Kratos's ass-kicking awesome. And really, that's what's most important in a God of War comic. Nuff said.

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