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Savage Avengers #1 (Review)

Writer: David Pepose

Artist: Carols Magno

Marvel Comics, May 2022

Savage Avengers is a new comic book series published by US superhero publisher Marvel Comics, and penned by David Pepose. Mr Pepose has an impressive resume of recent comic book works that includes the Spencer & Locke mini-series and the Ringo-award winning The O.Z. (and Scout’s Honor, which we have previously reviewed) but Savage Avengers marks his first series under the Marvel banner.

The premise of Savage Avengers will be unfamiliar to a reader whose interest was sparked by the “Avengers” brand in the title, because none of the popular members of the flagship superteam makes an appearance. Instead, the title revolves around a popular but somewhat niche character: Conan the Barbarian.

The Savage Avengers is not exactly a new team. The first iteration was introduced in 2019, with a time-displaced Conan leading a team that consists of Marvel heroes that are more violent than their peers, such as Wolverine, the Punisher, and Venom. Mr. Pepose’s new series largely follows the same principle, with Conan leading a team of antiheroes that include Anti-Venom, Black Knight, Daredevil, Cloak & Dagger, and Weapon H (a relatively new character that has powers similar to those of Wolverine and the Hulk – we have previously reviewed the Weapon H title – .)

ComicList Previews: SAVAGE AVENGERS #1 - GoCollect

The comic doesn’t waste time setting up the action pieces, with the still-time displaced Conan going after a modern iteration of the cult of Set, only to be intercepted by the dangerous cyborg from the future, Deathlok – who is now hunting the barbarian for “crimes against the timestream.” Interspersed with Conan and Deathlok’s fight scenes are scenes of the other team members in their respective timelines getting into minor fights and incidents.

The big payoff for the issue involves one of the Set cultists triggering a “madbomb” that somehow pulls in all of the key players and transports them directly to the place where Conan and Deathlok are fighting. From here, things go bad as Deathlok absorbs Weapon H’s gamma energies and gets strong enough to take on the entire team of antiheroes. And then things go from bad to worse as Conan accidentally damages Deathlok’s time traveling device, resulting in the group being transported back to Conan’s native timeline – the Hyborian age.

Savage Avengers #1 is not exactly what we expect for a first issue. The action starts fast and what little introduction is given comes in small fragmented bits scattered throughout the story. This comic will not be friendly to casual readers that are unfamiliar with the characters – a huge chunk of novelty is completely lost on readers who are not up to date on Marvel lore. But the action is top-notch, and the writing taut enough that it can be appreciated (even if it might require a quick trip to Wikipedia for a who’s who session).

As for the art, there’s nothing to complain about. The panels are perfectly composed and with so much detail, without turning into muck. What’s impressive is that the comic manages to make the pages bright and colourful without sacrificing the dark, gritty aesthetics that Conan the Barbarian is known for. It does get muddled in a few panels, but we chalk that up mostly to the fact that the panels feature fight scenes between multiple participants with energy beams, dirt, and body parts flying all over the place.

All in all, what Mr Pepose has set up with this first issue is interesting enough to encourage excitement for the next issue. It does require foreknowledge of several exiting franchises for full appreciation. Savage Avengers #1 is shaping up to be a decent series and could serve as an alternative to the current crop of MCU-reliant comic books from Marvel.