Savage Avengers #1
“Chapter One: Once Upon a Time in the City of Sickles”
Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: David Finch (regular)/Simone Bianchi, Deodato, Moebius, Skottie Young and Leinil Francis Yu
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US
Marvel has the licence for Conan comics back in hand, and it’s clearly looking to capitalize on it. And when I say “capitalize,” I mean financially, not creatively. Teaming Conan with a group of the Marvel Universe’s iconic anti-heroes seems like a fun notion at first, but it also seems like fodder from hack fan fiction. Aside from cashing in on the 1990s Kewl factor that serves as the foundation of this concept, I don’t see the point at all. There’s no suspense here, nothing on the line. These characters aren’t going to grow, and they’re not going to lose. So aside from the novelty of Conan’s fish-out-of-water story, Savage Avengers doesn’t have a lot going for it.
Stranded out of time and space in the Savage Land after an encounter with the heroic Avengers, Conan makes his way across the untamed landscape doing what he does best: seeking treasure. But it turns out that booty is in the lair of a death cult, aiming to bring back a deathbringer from a distant, unknown planet at the edge of the solar system. And that particular death cult, aided by the Hand, has attracted some unwanted attention from some rather noble but intense vigilantes.
Mike Deodato was a logical choice to illustrate this testosterone-laden story. His gritty leanings are perfect for Conan, not to mention the other anti-heroes populating this plot. The visuals are appropriately dark — too much so, really. They’re so ink at times, it’s a little difficult to discern what’s going on. His depiction of Dr. Voodoo is a bit distorted; his physicality seems completely unlike that of the other figures in the book.
I have to be honest – I’ve never been a big Conan fan. On the rare occasions I read one of his comic-book adventures, I found them completely unrelatable. My only fond association with the property was probably from my early teens, scanning a copy of Savage Sword of Conan on the magazine rack at a corner store, hoping to catch a glance at an illustrated boobie. Now here, writer Gerry Duggan plays Conan up for laughs, and it works, in the same way that Genghis Khan was funny in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I suppose. But I don’t know how sustainable that is for Conan’s appeal in an ongoing, pseudo Avengers title.
Savage Avengers seems to be defined, unfortunately, by its limitations. The reader knows the titular heroes aren’t at any risk here, and the nature of the plot makes it clear the protagonists will win in the end. Furthermore, the audience knows characters as prominent as Wolverine, Punisher and Venom aren’t going to undergo any real change or development in these pages. So that leaves me wondering… where’s the story, the conflict? There’s action and violence, sure, but it doesn’t feel like anything’s really on the line here.
Finally, given the success (on many levels) of Avengers: Endgame over the past few days, it seems odd that Marvel would choose to make this the new Avengers comic it would debut immediately after the movie’s release. It offers nothing for fans of the cinematic Avengers, not even a single character in common. While I didn’t enjoy this comic, I do understand its commercial appeal, but the timing of this release seems ill-advised in the larger pop-culture context. 4/10