Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: David Pepose
Artwork: Carlos Magno
Colours: Espen Grundetjern
Lettering: Travis Lanham
Release Date: 18th May 2022
Full disclosure before get going with this review: I’m not a fan of Conan’s inclusion as part of the established Marvel Universe. Like, at all. That’s definitely not a slight on any of the creative teams who have tackled his arrival in recent years, but there’s just something about it just that feels ‘off’ to me, almost like one of those franchise mash-up ‘Archie versus Predator’ type comics. However, I most certainly am a fan of writer David Pepose, so seeing him taking the reigns of Conan and a new group of “savage” Avengers for his debut Marvel title was definitely something I was interested in taking a look at.
To be fair, Pepose makes it work here, having Conan tackle some familiar foes in the early going of the issue as he dispatches a gathering of the Cult of Set in typically decisive fashion. It still feels inherently wrong to me, but the well-pitched narration keeps things feeling suitably Hyborian, and Carlos Magno does a stellar job with the artwork in this sequence, more than satisfying my inner Conan fan.
From here, we do a quick whistle-stop tour of New York, which – as you might expect – is absolutely heaving with superheroes, each dealing with their own drama. Pepose is clearly having a lot of fun playing in the Marvel toy box, bringing a colourful cast of characters – including the likes of Daredevil, Black Knight and Cloak & Dagger – to the page, and Magno gets ample opportunity to flex his artistic muscle during their various introductions.
The assortment of heroes are brought together by the detonation of a “madbomb” (which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like) and the arrival of Deathlok, who has been sent from the future to help cleanse the timestream by erasing Conan from the MCU. Which, given my earlier comments, sort of makes him the hero of the story in my book? Anyway… the subtle (and not-so-subtle) nods to the likes of Predator and Terminator are well delivered, and the sequence where the newly assembled ‘Avengers’ try and fail to take down the single-minded Deathlok is fantastic, and really goes a long way towards establishing the cybernetic soldier as a legitimate threat.
As I mentioned above, Magno and colourist Espen Grundetjern do a great job with the visual side of the story, and Magno’s distinctive heavily-shaded style really works well with some of the characters featured here, Conan, Weapon-H and Cloak in particular. There’s a lot going in this issue, and while some pages do end up feeling a little claustrophobic as a result, it always feels like an intentional artistic choice rather than an oversight on the part of the creative team.
At the end of the day, this is a fun series that crackles with excitement and enthusiasm from the entire creative team. For my money though, it’s the final page twist that really kicks things into a whole new gear, guaranteeing that I’ll be picking up issue two as soon as it goes on sale. Well worth a look, even if you’re a MCU Conan denier like myself.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]