Over the years Hercules has guest starred in quite a few minis and one-shots on the following ones:
First 1980s Herc series by Bob Layton
I think this was the one that more or less established Hercules as the character we know today. It established his good humor, love of battle, and willingness to help others. I think the story part was perhaps the best executed in all respects. Hercules is forced to learn the same lesson as Thor except on a more cosmic setting. In a sense Hercules was a big fish in a small pawn, but now he was in the ocean with beings either bigger them him or situations where brute strength would not win. His confrontation with Galactus showed both his intelligence and what should happen when just about anyone including Thor or Hulk confronts Galactus head on.
Second 1980s mini
A follow up to the first Hercule is still maturing. When I first read this I thought it to be a perfect ending to the saga of Hercules wrapping up all the lose ends. Zeus and the Olympians have a future elsewhere so they no longer define Hercules. Zeus shows some of this wisdom we hear he is supposed to have. Hercules himself is now meant to find his own destiny free of Zeus or his earthly legend yet with the promise of greater glories.
Hercules: Heart of Chaos
I did not care much for this mini from the nineties. Its not that there is anything particularly wrong with it, but nothing memorable to me either. It is mortal Hercules attempting to stop Ares from destroying modern civilization. The story itself is decent enough, but the end was anti-climatic. Ares runs away from Hercules practically the entire series and barely puts up a fight at the end. I know Ares is portrayed as a coward at this time and usually not that good of a fighter. However, Hercules was mortal and his lowered stamina and durability were constant plot points. I felt like the God of War should have been more willing to face his weakened, hated foe and put up a better fight.
Incredible Hulk: Hercules Unleashed #1
I think this is one of the most defining stories about Hercules among long-term comic fans. It is often cited as proof of Hulk creating than Hercules among people who fail to take into account Hercules's mortal state. On the other hand, it shows how far Hercules is willing to go when he is not invincible. He knows he does not stand a chance against the Hulk, but he does not back down. This is one of the few direct examples of him employing his legendary fighting skills. His reasons for having already defeated the Hulk are made clear. Centuries from now when Hulk is remembered as a monster Hercules will be remembered as a hero.
The New Labors of Hercules
I may be in the minority, but I really liked this series. I am not sure if there are any particular reasons for it being written. Maybe to reestablish Hercules as a force to be reckoned with his godhood intact? Whatever the reason the labors themselves are secondary in many regards. You have Hercules who realizes at times he is a fool and tries to be better. I think the best part is the ending where Hercules confronts his wife. One of the defining heroic traits about Herc that sets him apart from other Greek heroes is his willingness to accept the consequences and punishments for his actions.
Hercules: Twilight of a God by Bob Layton
Gods live forever or so long it pretty much is forever...so how do gods handle there end? When first staring this one I was not looking forward to it. It had been over twenty years since the originals with what I thought to be a perfect ending. The idea of a brain-addled Hercules and fat Galactus right off sounded off putting so much that I waited for it to be completed before reading it. I was surprised after I read it. Despite this I think Layton handled things surprisingly well. The comedy throughout and pop culture references worked well with it. Hercules showed even brain addled he can be a badass. His “death” is the way he would want to go out. His transformation into a cosmic entity allows him to transcend his godhood. I do wish we had spent more time defining his grandchildren and some of the lose ends tied up came across as a bit rushed. The idea of Hercules fathering a new race of gods is gone, but his dynasty remains. The last page ending in its own way was most fitting.
Others I haven't read but am curious on opinions on include the recent Hercules/Wolverine series by Frank Teri that followed up New Labors and the Hercules: Full Circle. Has anybody read these and know if they are any good? Any others I missed not related to Incredible Hercules? What are your thoughts on those listed?