Conan the Barbarian and his scrappy friends are back for a new prehistoric adventure in Savage Avengers #1.
Ever since Marvel reacquired the Conan license in 2018, they’ve wasted no time making good use of him throughout their publishing slate, officially reintroducing him in Avengers: No Road Home and regularly printing Conan-verse titles from then on.
But whereas the newer Conan stories are mostly set in his chronological past, Marvel created the Savage Avengers title as something of a Conan “team-up” series. The lineup shifted throughout its original run, with the team officially being given its name and purpose by Doctor Strange midway through, but Conan himself always remained the anchor that everything revolved around.
This new run of Savage Avengers is a soft reboot of the title, introducing a (mostly) new cast of characters to fight with—and in some cases, against—Conan after they’re transported back to his native Hyborian Age. Returning from the old team is Elektra, now using the Daredevil name for herself, while new additions include Black Knight, Anti-Venom, Weapon H, Cloak and Dagger, and Deathlok. If you like your Avengers rough and tough, then this is theoretically the book for you.
I’m not sure I think this first issue is a total success in establishing what the series will be moving forward. It has the same problem that most team-based books run into straight out of the gate: keeping the cast separate from one another instead of setting up a dynamic that justifies the existence of this story. They’re all introduced in group-based vignettes that eventually somewhat come together by the end, but not in a satisfying way that leaves me wanting more. This is largely a disservice more at the fault of the medium Savage Avengers is being released in (monthly chapters) than writer David Pepose himself, whose script is competent–though a little underwhelming.
Leaving a strong first impression in the current state of the comicbook market is crucial, and many reading this first issue might not choose to keep picking it up if it doesn’t immediately grab them–which could potentially seal its fate just as quickly as it began. The original run of this title ran for nearly three years and could be considered a success by 2022 standards, but one long run doesn’t guarantee another, so let’s hope this series picks up a little more sooner than later.
Carlos Magno’s art at least fits the tone of the script, with heavy lines and a lot of black space accented by Espen Grundetjern’s dark colors. Savage Avengers is definitely not a lighter book geared towards younger readers, and Magno takes it to the line of a “parental advisory” that doesn’t require being bagged on the shelf. But that being said, I almost find myself wishing it did take it that far, which would give it slightly more novelty than it has in its existing state.