Savage Avengers, or at least the previous, 29-Issue run written by Gerry Duggan, has never really been my thing mostly because Conan the Barbarian is also not really my thing. So, to say that going into Savage Avengers #1 from David Pepose with art by Carlos Magno, colors by Espen Grudentjean, and letters by Travis Lanham, I wasn't exactly expecting much. However, the title manages to deliver in unexpected ways as it sets up not only a time-traveling thrill ride but does so with a delightfully unlikely group of antiheros crafted in a way that the reader can't help but want to return for more.
The premise is actually pretty simple. We start with Conan fighting followers of Set who have managed to steam themselves something called a Madbomb. Conan is then pursued by the time-traveling cyborg, Deathlok and as the situation escalates, Daredevil (a.k.a. Elektra), Anti-Venom, Cloak and Dagger, Black Knight, and Weapon H are all wrapped up in the fight before being sucked into a much larger and more dangerous situation. It's the execution of the premise that is interesting on several levels. There aren't really any "big swings" here. The issue is very much an introduction to the plot and is structured as such. This makes it an excellent jumping on point and it's something that elevates the entire issue. The reader doesn't have to be completely current on the state of the Marvel Universe to buy in. The story is also transparent that it is leaning into the genuinely outlandish nature of the story both in terms of how it's scripted and depicted. There's a lot of comics-from-the-1990s energy at play here and it is a ton of fun.
Savage Avengers #1 also does a great job of lightly introducing each of the characters without fully defining them. It's a narrative structure that lets the reader decide for themselves who these characters will be in this story without boxing them into a chosen path. The only real exception to that is Cloak and Dagger with their introduction to the story focused on their relationship, but even then, each character is structured in a way that it's obvious there is a lot of meat on the bone and interest to make that feast worthwhile. On top of that, Magno's art along with Grudentjean's colors reinforce both the slight '90s nostalgia of it all and delivers some really cool moments – there's one in particular with Cloak that just looks, for lack of a better word, rad. His cape transforms into a creepy mass of screaming faces like some unholy flame of hell and it is incredible.
Where the weaknesses of the issue come in are generally with pacing and organization. One of the downsides to the way the writing is structured with a lot of narration providing these character introductions is that things feel disorganized. It took me a few reads to fully put the story together because there were just so many words on the page between character vignettes and narration. Both parts were certainly well-written, but the way they were structured and visually assembled made for choppy pacing and made it harder than it needed to be to get to the story. It's obvious from the way it's presented on the page—Lanham's lettering is honestly fantastic—that it's meant to remind the reader of old Conan novels (and it certainly added pizazz to some of the more cumbersome phrases also intended to remind of those pulp novels), but the concept could be better deployed.
The bottom line? Savage Avengers #1 is a good read. It's not perfect, due to the verbosity of it all and there are moments when you are keenly aware you're reading introductions, but there is a lot of appeal here. The characterizations, the general premise, and even the bombastic 1990s-esque action all work well together to create a story that promises a truly wild ride and a good bit of fun, too – even for someone like me who doesn't care for Conan.
Published by Marvel Comics
On May 18, 2022
Written by David Pepose
Art by Carlos Magno
Colors by Espen Grudentjean
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho