Amadeus Cho’s genius battle

I’ve shouted from the (Olympian) heavens more than once that the Incredible Herculeseries remains in my top five favorite comics ever.  The hard-drinking, hard-loving, super strong demi-god Hercules teams up with the teenage super genius Amadeus Cho, going on all the adventures you expect and adore.  And while the series mainly focused on its namesake, writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente transformed the sidekick into a character worthy of our love and respect — that and he’s the perfect foil to Hercules’ stumblin’ strong man act.

Today, in Incredible Hercules #133, 135, and 137, written by Pak & Van Lente and drawn by Rodney Buchemi, we’re not even going to touch upon Hercules.  These issues star Amadeus as he explores the mystery behind his parents’ death.  No punches thrown today kids.  Enjoy good ol’ fashioned brain teaser.

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Perfect setting, right?  Abandoned desert towns always make for sinister backdrops.

At this point, I should probably explain Amadeus’ back story.  Unlike, say, Tony Stark who we just assume to a be one of the ten smartest people in the world, for Amadeus we have proof.

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And how did that explosion miss its intended target?

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I’m just saying that if Amadeus were a female, he would have been blown to bits.  Luckily, teenage hormones don’t cease in the comic book world.  Also if you haven’t noticed from his kimchi reference, despite his sidekick status, Amadeus receives critical acclaim for being a positive example of a Korean superhero.  Anyway, the abandoned desert town gets weird.  Fast.  Also, it’s not abandoned.

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See the conspiracy?  Geniuses get killed off for being geniuses — I assume some kind of jock master plan.  Fortunately, we get to see Amadeus in action, if you’ve ever wanted to see how the seventh smartest person in the world fights.

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I love this concept.  Amadeus’ intelligence ranks so high that he sees the world as math equations, compared to Hercules who almost certainly believes the word “equation” to be a sort of Mediterranean dish.  Though you know who can throw a smart guy for a loop?  A smarter guy, of course.

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I’m going to skip a ton.  The entire second issue of the arc revolves around a complicated D&D style game for control of Amadeus’ mind and the superior intellect of Pythagoras.  It rocks and you should devote some time to finding the issue and reading it.  But the final genius-off struggle between the two was what made me excited about this arc.  Let’s get into it, but first, cue character development:

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The next three or four pages include Pythagoras’ complicated back story, evil origins, and reasons for blowing up Amadeus’ parents.  You can read that stuff for yourself, but Amadeus only sought out this monster for one reason only: his sister.

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Okay, so that search ends up a bust.  Mysteries don’t always conclude with the bad guy’s rubber mask pulled off, though I really wish they all did if just for a booming rubber industry.  To find out who’s the smarter genius, the two have to play the coolest smart person game ever written in comics:

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Has math ever been this exciting?  More importantly, how does our hero win this no-win situation?

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I think Amadeus knew what Pythagoras would do if Amadeus refused to play, essentially ensuring the man’s death.  Amadeus, a superhero, doesn’t murder (gosh darn it) and he kinda did murder Pythogoras — even if he got sucked into a game without his consent.  Oh well, so’s the tragic life of the hero.  Still, if we count that, Amadeus is still thousands of murders behind Hercules.  Seriously, I can’t figure out if Hercules has more kills or body hair.

Athena, Hercules’ sister, witnesses the whole thing.  Want a final plot twist?

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And a new champion he becomes.  No, seriously — Amadeus totally rocks nowadays.  Here’s him a few issues later, in the double spread glory he deserves:

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Click for a larger version, if just for the only superhero to fight crime in a designer suit and jacket.



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