THIS REVIEW OF SAVAGE AVENGERS #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. We love seeing mighty icons come together as a cohesive team despite disparate power levels and backgrounds. But there’s also satisfaction seeing a group consisting of less popular and usually less powerful heroes enduring the same process. You don’t have to look far into Marvel’s rearview for them: Cap’s Kooky Quartet. The Gilgamesh Gang. The WACOs. The original Champions.
The first Savage Avengers run came with a power-hitter lineup of popular characters famous in their ferocity. Multiple and bleeding papercuts should have ensued from merely handling those issues. But the roster for the current Savage Avengers #1 is, as promised on the cover, all-new and all-different. Bonus: It’s in a good way.
Because their premiere issue presents an intriguing mix of powers and perspectives among heroes who, while not obscure, aren’t normally featured in their own ongoing series. When these potentially less-explored characters are in the hands of a good writer, magic happens.
David Pepose’s hands qualify. I first discovered his work on AfterShock Comics’ Scout’s Honor at a time of dystopian fiction overload in comics. So much overload, I maybe groaned a little reading its solicit. But it came with a clever hook: a post-apocalyptic civilization that bases its principles on old scouting handbooks. It was a fresh, promising difference and Pepose fleshed it out, from humorously updated merit badges to a leadership violating every creed in the Boy Scouts’ venerated manual.
Seeing his name attached to Savage Avengers put it on my preorders, and quickly. Pepose’ choices for the roster supported my decision. Conan. Daredevil/Elektra. Weapon-H. Anti-Venom. Deathlok. Black Knight. Cloak and Dagger. That’s variety. Each savage, some already Avengers, and a dynamic that could be fun. Which describes the first issue.
Happenstance, in the best tradition of past Marvel milestones, serves nicely for the offbeat hero pairings here. Madcap, giddy, what-are-the-odds circumstances which work because they make just enough sense. There’s action throughout, much of it with fresh insights regarding a number of our heroes. There are also enjoyable riffs on everything from The Terminator franchise to the 1982 Conan movie. Seeing the Marvel version of the T-800 squaring off against the company’s iteration of Conan the Barbarian was an unexpected but entirely appropriate fan service moment for this Savage Avengers relaunch.
Pepose isn’t the only one indulging himself here. Artist Carlos Magno’s packing every page to bursting with busy, bustling, and highly detailed rendering. He dives into multiple, many-heroed fight scenes with enviable fervor. Magno’s pages are so flowing and so strikingly paneled, the full page splashes feel as justly earned as they do precisely timed.
The color artistry of Espen Grundetjern shows mastery with extremes, from Cloak-projected murk to the spotlight illumination from Dagger’s light powers. Both heroes darken and dazzle, often within the same panels, as they sweep across battle scenes. This Grundetjern effect is in concert with Magno’s artwork while Travis Lanham’s lettering is in league with both; Lanham paces the issue’s panels and dialogue—and there’s a considerable amount of both for such an action-based tale—without crowding the art.
My familiarity with some of these characters is limited, Anti-Venom and Weapon-H most notably. Others like Daredevil/Elektra, Cloak, and Dagger I’m less than current on. But they were presented well enough I had no difficulties understanding the storyline. Then, my interest piqued, I looked all of them up for backgrounds and updates. From that, it seemed Deathlok and Cloak may have upgraded abilities or power applications for the series, but it’s early to determine.
The book may feel too introductory for those current on members’ recent activities. However getting this band together in even a semi-organic fashion is a feat, one Pepose and company pull off with style. There’s not much room left for more, and it’s still a better beginning than other recent Marvel launches with more pages and increased cover prices. Plus, its game-changer of a final panel is a fitting ending to this new title’s beginning.
Some may resent the loss of the first series’ more popular characters like Venom and Wolverine. Others may be dissuaded knowing the rights to publish new Conan material by Marvel ends this summer. None of these concerns are dealbreakers. The creative chops on display indicate this team, both creative and fictional, can carry on just fine—even without Conan.
You won’t find lengthy tracts of character introspection here. But when even the more reticent of these heroes finds themselves swept into brutal conflict alongside that catalyst of chaos, Conan the Barbarian? Crom’s blood, that’s entertainment! And there’s nothing wrong with an action extravaganza if it’s done well. Savage Avengers #1 is, and it’s fitting these are the chroniclers of Conan’s final Marvel tales. Come… let them tell you of the Cimmerian and his unlikely companions, and with them relive the days of high adventure!
Marvel / $3.99
Written by David Pepose.
Art by Carlos Magno.
Colors by Espen Grundetjern.
Letters by VC’s Travis Lanham.
Savage Avengers #1 is in stores now. Issue #2 drops June 8. For purchasing information, click this.