“Within the Pit Below”
Cover: José Luis García-López, Editor: Joe Orlando
Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler: José Luis García-López; Inker: Wally Wood
Synopsis from DC Wikia: “Cerebus captures Jennifer Monroe in order to lure Hercules to a battle in Pluto’s realm.”
Most modern comics can use 15 words to describe over 18 pages of story and art, true, but a Bronze Age comic?
Going through the entrance to Hell, Hercules, Kevin and Basil meet a minstrel and Charon at the shores of the River Styx. Our heroes are attacked by one of Pluto’s Shadow Beasts. Kevin begs the minstrel to help them save Jennifer. The minstrel plays his lyre to weaken the Shadow Beast. Hercules quickly dispatches the ethereal monster.
The minstrel, Orpheus, joins Hercules on his quest.
Cerebus meanwhile takes Jennifer to Tartarus, the palace of Pluto and his lady Persephone.
Meanwhile again, back in Paris, Jennifer’s friends David Rigg and Simon St. Charles are captured by Ares – their fate to be determined in a later issue!
Orpheus reveals why he is in hell: as with the “real” legend. This son of Apollo lost his bride Eurydice when she died from a snake bite. He went to Tartarus to confront Pluto. Pluto allowed Eurydice to follow Orpheus out of hell as long as Orpheus did not turn around to look at her. Nearly at the gate, Orpheus was overcome by his curiosity and turned to make sure his bride was still there. She was, but instantly disappeared back into hell.
Cerebus and Jennifer talk quietly – here he seems to pine for his former bride-to-be, whereas last issue he was filled with rage as to her betrayal. Hercules finally tracks down the Nubian and calls him out to battle! The gods clash! Hercules knocks a wall on Cerebus, crushing him. Jennifer speaks to Cerebus while he is in his death throes. “It is the woman who betrayed you that caused your death,” she says. “No, it was my hatred and need for vengeance,” Cerebus says.
Pluto releases Jennifer. Orpheus reveals he is a ghost and reunites with Eurydice just as Cerebus was released from his hatred.
Finally reunited with Jennifer; Hercules, Kevin and Basil leave Hell.
The letter column is filled with missives praising the first issue – the art, the story and Hercules quiet (compared to his Marvel counter-part) power.
In a few panels Cerebus shows more depth than Hercules. But this was a fun issue and a nice way to complete the first story arc.
But in three issues we still do not know much about our main characters – neither Kevin nor Jennifer despair over the losses of WWIII. Hercules – although there is no question that he is loyal and heroic – is still a mystery. He hates Ares, true, but what about his loves? What makes him smile? Laugh? We know his persona, what about his personality?
About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped. Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!