When Marvel Comics introduced the idea of a more violent Avengers in Savage Avengers, it made sense. Utilizing characters like Punisher and Elektra–natural-born killers — made sense. Oh, and it has Conan the Barbarian on the team. No brainer for action aficionados. This third volume is a great continuation of Kulan Gath’s threat to Earth since coming to the Marvel universe in the first volume. Plus there’s a dragon, hookups, and special ops Avengers teams.
Collecting Savage Avengers #11-16, this volume stands on its own in some respects thanks to its focus on the Savage Avengers taking charge and peeling back Gath’s strength. The peeling comes in the form of removing his top aids, one of which raised Punisher’s family from the dead, and they deserve the death coming to them. It’s of course a continuation of a story and is strengthened if you read volumes 1 and 2, but it opens and closes in a way that feels complete for this chunk of the story.
Opening with Dr. Strange, we see he and Elektra are a bit closer thanks to the circumstances and threats they are navigating. That closeness gets rather serious, but there’s no time for that as the main thread of this book leads to Dr. Strange forming two teams. These teams set out to take out Gath’s strongest seconds in command. Mixing things up, the narrative cuts to Conan doing his own thing as he slices and dices bad guys, eats peanut butter, and does it all effortlessly. Seriously, you haven’t seen it all until you see Conan enjoy some peanut butter.
Ultimately, Duggan has crafted a good book that works the room, so to speak. Conan is the cold and calculated straight man, which allows other characters like Magik, Wolverine, and Dr. Strange to riff off of his lack of interest in anything going on. He wants to kill Gath, drink, and be merry and that’s it. Colorful characters abound in this book, like Black Knight (wait until you see what he’s up to when he’s recruited), Juggernaut, and Hellstrom. Broken up into two teams, the book darts back and forth over the last two issues of the book.
Art is split up with Butch Guice on issue #11, Adam Gorham on #12, and Patch Zircher closing the book out with #13-16. All three artists capture the gritty, bloody, and ruthless nature of the battles. Guice gets to take us on an adventure with Doctor Strange in the astral form across time and space that is self-contained and trippy. Layout design helps create a sense of scope and epicness that’s out-of-this-world good. There are many close-ups of a dying and bleeding character that capture the cruelty of Gath well. This helps set up the villain as worthy of our hero’s wrath.
Gorham gets to take on the darkest chapter of the book, which helps set up the dark places the heroes must go to achieve success. Then in the light, Gorham takes us on slicing and dicing Conan leg of the book with some glorious gore. Gorham is good at getting into the muscles and edges with inks. The darker tone suits the book.
When the teams come together, Zircher takes over and does a lot of lifting when it comes to capturing the humanity of the characters. There’s a lot of concern on the faces of these characters from Black Widow to Dr. Strange, while Wolverine connects with Bats the ghost dog. Of course, there is great battling going down with a giant dragon or cult leaders rushing the likes of Wolverine. These scenes always seem to capture the weight of the moment and the scale of every blow–dragon scales and all.
Savage Avengers is the best way to cut loose in Marvel Comics. “Enter the Dragon” is a great way to do it — it’s no-holds-barred action that feels complete in a satisfying sort of way.
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