The King in Black tie-in comics keep trickling in via trade paperbacks, and this week it’s Savage Avengers‘ turn. If you need to catch up, check out the volume 3 review, which found the last story arc to be a great way to cut loose for the reader and the characters. In this fourth volume, Deadpool and Conan the Barbarian team up to kick Symbiote butt, and Conan finds a new home.
A bonus for casual fans picking this collection up is that they don’t need to read King in Black to enjoy it. The main connection is that Conan gets his own Symbiote, but nothing here is a linchpin in the bigger story. Sure, the main focus is to save Cyclops and Storm from being controlled by Knull, but this is more about Deadpool and Conan riffing off each other.
The gist of it the opening is that aliens are rampaging outside a police department, but what else is new at Marvel Comics? The beauty of the opening issue is how it leans into the characterizations of Conan and Deadpool and riffs off their personalities. They’re both killers (and quite good at it), but they’re also realists in their own way. Conan has been involved in superhero stories for a good chunk of time now, and writer Gerry Duggan utilizes that to show how Conan has been normalized around their behavior. Meanwhile, Deadpool is his usual kooky self and plays the part of a clown, but with easily hurt feelings.
Plotting-wise, the story doesn’t have too many scene changes to start, but as the first part of a small side story, it does well enough to change up the focus. First, Conan and Deadpool are stuck in a cell, and soon they’re moving on from there to more dangerous situations. The beauty of this issue is how Duggan writes Deadpool, be it off the cuff jokes or commentary on the situation, or Conan’s deadly serious but honest nature about killing. It’s a good combo. Duggan delights with more than a few great gags and riffs on comics history. His Deadpool continues to be one of the best ever, and it shows here.
This issue’s art by Kev Walker — who draws issues #17-19 — is good at capturing volume within space. Conan’s face is carved from a block for stone and 3D in its articulation. Layouts are simple, but explore the focus getting closer or further away, to let the reader take in the characters. There’s an almost caricature nature to Walker’s work here, with an overly expressive Conan and how Deadpool’s ability to heal is taking to some gruesome places.
Backgrounds are simple, which helps bring the focus on the characters. Color artist Java Tartaglia keeps colors muted in brown grays and darker colors. Deadpool is the brightest thing in the book, but even the red of his costume is darker in tone. Given the circumstances of the event, the color choices match the atmosphere well.
A third character is introduced named Knight Flyer, who plays the part of the straight man to the Conan and Deadpool duo. He’s a deep cut for Marvel fanatics and should be an interesting character to follow if he can make it out of this story arc alive. He’s introduced rather quickly, but does well to serve as the barometer in the room so we can be properly aware of how insane Deadpool or Conan can get.
Patrick Zircher takes over pencils for issues #20-22 which features Spider-Man and Ghost Rider but more importantly a stronger tie-in to Conan’s place of origin. Zircher and Duggan are doing a good job making Conan a bit more comfortable in the 616 universe and you can see it with his new “castle” he took over and also his interactions with other heroes. This story ends in a satisfying way as Conan faces off against enemies like Nightmare who are a similar vibe to wizards Conan has faced before.
The King in Black tie-in stories have been the best part of the event, and Savage Avengers continues that trend. This portion of the story is a great team-up book between Deadpool and Conan that ties into the event just enough — especially for Conan fans — to be well worth a look. When the event tie-in settles down, it’s made clear Duggan and Zircher are having a ball putting Conan into a position where he might actually get comfortable living in modern society even though he must fight supervillains he deems wizards. So it goes for a barbarian who wants to battle.