During big comic book events, sometimes the one-shot tie-in issues are the best entertainment. So far, that’s true of Empyre: Savage Avengers #1. Simply seeing Gerry Duggan and Greg Smallwood teaming up will send most comic fans into overdrive to pick up the book, but the fact that it involves a Conan the Barbarian team up with Venom? Hell yes! This is a spoiler-free review, so nothing will be revealed that isn’t obvious in the preview and cover.
If you’re looking for poetry or flowery prose, you’ve come to the wrong place with Empyre: Savage Avengers #1 — this is an action fiesta as Conan takes on the plant-based aliens invading Earth. The book opens in Mexican City where Conan is enjoying a burrito and some Lucha Libre wrestling. Before he can get in some roughhousing with the locals, a giant trunk smashes through the roof and the real fun begins.
This book is a delight to the eyes and the action-fueled imagination. It’s definitely grindhouse in its approach as it attempts to throw one insanely violent idea after another into the story. Since the planet aliens are sort of not alive in a mammalian sense, Marvel can get away with some graphic mayhem. It suits the characters being used here since Conan and Venom are known to lop off heads for fun.
I also found Duggan’s writing of both Conan and Venom quite good. Eddie Brock has mostly been written by Donny Cates of late and it’s nice to see another writer go for a spin. He has a nice bro-down with Conan, and you can tell they respect each other through the dialogue.
Pair this violence with the visual artistry of Greg Smallwood who also colors the book, and you have delightfully violent escapism. Set at night, the book’s lighting is exceptional, and more than once I got a classic B-movie vibe thanks to the greens of the aliens and the purples in the sky. There are also some tricky things to articulate, all with the limited pages to deliver them on, but Smallwood capitalizes on the epic nature of each setup with cinematic panel work and well-paced action. The only failure visually is that this book didn’t come with 3D glasses.
There’s grindhouse, and then there’s Savage Avengers grindhouse. This book is outrageously over the top and entertaining in its delivery of violence. It literally one-ups itself multiple times. It’s great fun and visually absorbing too. This is rowdy, outlandish escapism at its finest.