Tuesday, August 17, 2010

God of War #3 - Delays That Infuriate The Gods

Someone at Wildstorm fucked up. Somewhere along the way, someone forgot to remind someone that there was this comic called God of War based off one of the best video game franchises of the past decade that they hadn't finished. The first issue of this comic was released back in fucking March. Five months later and they're just getting around to the third issue. If this were Sparta that kind of lag would get you killed faster than a Star Wars fan in a Jar Jar costume at a Star Trek convention. It's a shame too because all that time and it's easy to lose the coherence of the story it began, which was pretty damn awesome for anyone who enjoyed the games. Now that the third issue is out, the story can finally continue. But has the delay cost this title the awesome it established?

Even for someone who read the first two issues, it may take a moment to recall how the last issue ended. Kratos is still on a quest in both the present and the past to retrieve the Ambrosia of Asclepius. In the present he's looking to use it to solidify his place among the gods. In the past he's looking to use it to save his infant daughter. He's also leading a band of Spartans who seek the Ambrosia as well. That's the gist of it. The details may be a bit more sketchy, but you really don't need to know too much else. It also has the standard Gods fucking around with mortals plot, but that's to be expected in a Greek themed story. In the past Kratos deals with that first hand in the form of a whirlpool formed by Posieden. While the other Greeks are shitting their togas, Kratos dives right in to find your typical Greek sea monster within. Since monsters are to Kratos what KFC is to chicken, it ends in a predictably bloody and pretty damn awesome fight.

After proving that Kratos has bigger balls than the entire Greek army, he leads them into the heart of the whirlpool where they suspect the creature had a dwelling. It's a bit of a head-scratcher in terms of plot. They're in the middle of the sea and there's a cave underneath that can support a creature? I don't get it either, but it gives Kratos and his crew a way to get back onto dry land. It's definitely a bit contrived. Perhaps it would make sense in a video game where level transitions really can't be all that fluid. But in a comic book where there are all sorts of ways to change scenes, that doesn't fly nearly as well.

Fast forward to the present where Kratos is on the same journey, albeit for far less noble reasons. He's plowing ahead, leaving more bloody carnage in his wake as he's so prone to do. Blood trails are the same to Kratos as they are fresh cases of VD for wherever Courtney Love passed through. That doesn't stop Athena from warning him. She should probably know by now that he's not going to respond in a very gentleman-like way (although she would probably still fuck him), but she warns him anyways. Unlike the game, though, she offers no details on what he's facing or while he'll need to make it through. It's all very vague despite some nice imagery. It's over rather quickly, but it does make a nice scene transition back to the past where Kratos is essentially walking the same path.

In the past Kratos is eager to forge ahead, but his men don't have nearly the god-like endurance he has so like pussies they ask to rest near a well. That doesn't jive with Kratos, but since this is before Ares fucked him up beyond repair he lets it slide. However, as they are resting they are about to find out that they aren't the only ones seeking the Ambrosia of Asclepius...again.

This time a tribe of women armed with powers instilled in them by Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, are seeking a cure for an ailment any woman would find terrifying. In the town of Keros, the pregnant women keep giving birth to sick or dying babies. Even in those days when death by childbirth was akin to playing Russian Roulette with a half-loaded gun, that's pretty fucked up. Their healers (whose idea of treatment probably involved herbs, onions, and sacrificing small animals to the gods) have given up. The Ambrosia is their only hope and for whatever reason they feel they have to attack Kratos and his army in order to get it. That's right, just going around them and moving ahead of them isn't enough. They have to risk life and limb facing a bunch of badass Greeks in battle. Again, it's more contrived than it should be in a story that has such rich source material.

Even if it's damn stupid, the battle is pretty badass. These women are being aided by the gods after all so they are no pushovers. It makes for some nice spreads among many that have graced this series. The only problem is that since it happens in a fucking cave, there's a lot of darkness so you don't get a good feel for the details. Even though the art style itself is dark to begin with, the cave sure doesn't help make the case. Even so, Kratos does tango with who appears to be Artemis's top gun. She's a pretty nasty chick who you would think has no business fighting a guy like Kratos, but she holds her own. She even manages to break Kratos's sword. Since this is before he became a god, he knows he's in deep shit.

While this is going on, there are other battles unfolding that for some reason need to be squeezed in despite this battle between Kratos and the warriors of Artemis. It's not as smooth a transition as before. It talks of other champions of the gods such as Prince Alrik, who is on Team Hades, and Danaus, who is on Team Hermes. While not quite as passionate as the Twilight crowd, they do make for a bloody battle over this one healing elixir that's supposed to solve all their problems. While the battle is awesome, it seems out of place and disjointed.

When the fight between Kratos and Artemis's minion return, it seems like not much has happened since the last scene. It's not very clear where the broken sword went or why this fight wasn't ended right then and there. If this were the video game this would be where one of those button pressing prompts would pop up in preparation for a finishing blow. Instead you've got a scene where the woman is just standing in front of Kratos, trying to tempt him into surrendering. She even tries the seduction method, which to her credit does have a history of at least making men think twice before finishing the job. But this is Kratos she's trying to seduce. It doesn't matter what kind of pussy someone tries to throw at him. If given the chance between pussy and killing, he goes for killing.

In the past this frees Kratos and his men to continue moving forward. That's a so-so resolution to a protracted battle that could have been more coherent. That leads in nicely to another visit to the present where Kratos is walking the same path. It's here where Athena's warning from earlier comes into play. Not only is there a new obstacle in his way, but it potentially spoils what happened to all the men that followed Kratos on his journey in the past. All around him hoards of undead rise up from Hades and are understandably pissed at Kratos for sending them there (who can blame them?). Their solution to the problem is as basic as any zombie attack. They want him to join them in Hades where they can make him suffer forever. That's Greek justice for you. Forgiveness is for pussies. Vengeance is all that matters. Great lesson for the kids. Somewhere Bill O'Reily and Glenn Beck's heads are exploding.

The book does end on a strong note and it does offer plenty of reasons to keep reading. However, the delay from this book really hurt it because whenever there is a large gap in between issues it's easy to lose interest in the story. There's a lot of time in between for other awesome stories to come in and overshadow this one. When I reviewed God of War #1 and #2 there wasn't a lot in between to compare it with. The story flowed nicely and it made for an awesome tale. God of War #3 was a bit tricker because of the gap and it did not help that the structure of the book wasn't as refined as the other two. The transitions between scenes weren't as crisp and some of the plots felt a lot more contrived.

That doesn't take away completely from the quality of the story. Writer Marv Wolfman still shows that he has a great feel for Kratos's character and can find intriguing ways to bring in the influence of other Greek gods. However, since this book was so delayed and it seems likely the next book will be similar, then it may be a while before the story is properly resolved. By then, some readers may just not care enough to see it through. However, if the story is awesome enough then the delays won't matter. Wolfman still has a chance to make it happen with two more issues. I'm in it till the end, hoping to see Kratos get the justice he deserves.

The final score for God of War #3 is a 3 out of 5. There's room for improvement and plenty of potential to see it through.

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