Conan’s only been back in Marvel’s hands for a few months now, and he’s already joined The Avengers. After an appearance in the Avengers: No Road Home miniseries, the classic Robert E. Howard creation is joined by some of Marvel’s most violent characters in Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato’s Savage Avengers #1! Next, the latest issue of Champions has the team crossing over with the War of the Realms! And finally, the latest Star Wars: Age of Rebellion one-shot focuses on everyone’s favorite smuggler, Han Solo! Is this week’s Marvel Rundown as Savage as the Avengers? Read on and find out, True Believers!

Savage Avengers #1

Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Mike Deodato Jr.
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by David Finch & Frank D’Armata
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
Marvel has been looking for a home for Conan outside the context of the main series, and the publisher has landed on the idea of the Avengers. Avengers: No Road Home set up the status quo of Conan in The Marvel Universe relatively well, and his story continues in the pages of Savage Avengers #1. Readers are treated to the return of Infinity Wars creative team Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato Jr. Each member of the creative team does a great job doubling-down on the irreverent bliss of the tone from Infinity Wars. The meat of the issue takes place towards the middle when Conan greets Wolverine with a brutal fight sequence. The battle between the two characters utilizes blocky characters and sound effects to portray an impressive level of violence. The sparse and chaotic dialogue evokes the carnal nature of Deodato’s artistic contributions to the issue incredibly well. The core flaw in the book is just how muddled and confusing Deodato’s work can be at times. It is difficult to logistically understand where some characters’ anatomy ends and other limbs begin. Deodato’s figures are so amorphous that it appears to be difficult for him to draw the same figure the same way twice. If Deodato’s superhero pencils were to work in any one ongoing series, it is hard for me to find a better fit for him than in the context of Savage Avengers. These more violent, muscle-bound heroes seem like a solid fit for his work.
Duggan does not get too far into the premise within this issue, but he does establish a strong relationship between the cast members. Readers only get to see the different cast members in the issue briefly. The story also does not clearly craft a mantra aside from being a title mostly focused on the adventures of present-day Conan. While the title does have an endearing, goofy nature, Duggan needs to integrate more character and personality into the scripts surrounding the cast members in the issue. Wolverine and Conan’s playful friendship and huge battle sequences are best from a scripting standpoint. The scene also depicts a strong lighthearted and naive side of Conan. If Duggan can craft more relationships like this in future issues, the book could potentially be onto something special.
Deodato’s artwork is concerning. The penciller uses massive, hulking figures with odd anatomy. These gargantuan characters don’t leave room for much for detail in panel backgrounds. The illustration for several team members include faces that look flat and emotionless. Deodato still does a great job creating a sense of movement in a couple of the action sequences. While Frank Martin tries to give Deodato’s work an appealing color palette, the oddly bright shimmer and hues of certain pages stick out for the worst. There has to be a better, more streamlined set of colors to make Deodato’s confusing art slightly less difficult to interpret. Deodato seems like he has a good time playing off Duggan’s physical comedy and action sequences. The layouts here are not quite as experimental as I have seen in other titles featuring Deodato’s pencils.
Despite clumsy artwork, Savage Avengers #1 is a solid way to kick off a new Avengers team. The fight sequence between Wolverine and Conan is almost worth the price of admission. I would recommend the title to anyone following or interested in the new direction for Conan in the context of the greater Marvel Universe. Savage Avengers is an amusing new direction for a few of Marvel’s most beloved anti-heroes.
Final Verdict: Savage Avengers #1 is a STRONG BROWSE that can fall in the buy or browse category at any moment going forward!

Champions #5

Written by Jim Zub
Illustrated by Juanan Ramirez
Colored by Marcio Menyz
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Kim Jacinto & Rain Beredo
Reviewed by Joe Grunenwald
Over the course of its first four issues, Champions has quietly became one of Marvel’s best titles. Writer Jim Zub and artist Steven Cummings have put forth fantastic work on the current run of the series, doing big things with Marvel’s team of young heroes and telling intense character-driven stories with the team’s core membership, particularly Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man (the Miles Morales variety). The latest issue is the first of two War of the Realms tie-ins, and while you might think that would mean an interruption to the regular goings-on of the series, Champions #5 instead provides a model that all event tie-ins would do well to follow.
After an opening scene in which Spider-Man continues to reckon with the choices he made in the opening arc of the series, Champions #5 shifts focus to Ms. Marvel as she deals with the splintering of her core group of friends, while still juggling the responsibility of leading what is now a global team. Zub does an excellent job getting across what Kamala is going through and how she’s feeling, both through her captioned thoughts and her actions in the story. The script weaves in elements of War of the Realms well, with the Champions alternately facing off against trolls and other invading forces themselves, and acting as support for other teams of heroes. It’s through the latter that a reunion with an old friend occurs, and the meeting is executed wonderfully. Kamala meets an adult Cyclops who, through timey-wimey means, remembers his time-lost younger self’s experiences as a part of the team. The story perfectly intersects the X-Men’s own War of the Realms tie-in, and Zub’s characterization of Scott Summers is spot-on and a refreshing addition to the title. From the very first issue, Zub’s focus on the dynamics between Champions teammates has been the driving force of the series, and the interaction between Kamala and Scott is without a doubt the highlight of this latest issue.
The strength of Zub’s script are matched by the issue’s visuals. Artist Juanan Ramírez provides fill-in pencils and inks on this issue, and his style fits nicely with the story being told. His linework is solid, and his heavy inks create a nice mood throughout. Ramírez’s characters are expressive and distinctive without being overtly cartoonish. There are a few big emotional beats, and Ramírez nails them, imbuing panels big and small with emotion and occasionally downright excitement. Colorist Marcio Menyz also does a really nice job of playing up the big moments and keeping everything moving. Menyz knows when to There’s a lot of action in this issue, and it’s always energetic while still being easy to follow what’s going on.
As event tie-ins go, Champions #5 is excellent. For readers who aren’t following the main War of the Realms, it sets up enough of what’s going on there to make sense, and uses elements of the event to tell a personal story about the characters. For people checking in simply because it’s a WotR tie-in, it introduces the characters and their situation clearly, and it’s likely to make you want to keep reading the series even after the event has ended. If you’re not reading Champions already, it’s absolutely worth going back and checking out the first four issues, but as an entry point that displays what’s great about the series as a whole, Champions #5 is great.
Final Verdict: BUY.

Star Wars: Age Of Rebellion – Han Solo #1

Written by Greg Pak
Pencilled by Chris Sprouse
Inked by Karl Story
Colored by Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson
Reviewed by AJ Frost

Since 1977, Han Solo has been a captivating and enigmatic figure; a character of manifold contradictions. Roguish, yet a team player; self-interested, yet invested in the well-being of others; a scoundrel with a heart of gold. In movies, in books, and yes, in comics, Han’s character is examined and reexamined to get to the heart of what makes him tick. And through it all, we loyal readers, viewers, and fans have yet to crack the true essence of Han. 

Although, this time around, we may have gotten one of our best glimpses yet. Over the past month, Marvel has been releasing Star Wars tales through its hybrid maxi-series/mini-series Age of… line, and our latest is the aforementioned book about Han, his stalwart companion Chewbacca, and a mission to assist members of the Rebel Alliance in deepest need (when are they not in desperate need, honestly?). The story presented in  Age of Rebellion: Han Solo #1 is straightforward fare, but delightful popcorn fodder nonetheless. After the destruction of the Death Star, Han and Chewie aren’t just heroes, but wealthy heroes. Flush with admiration (and cash), they set out across the galaxy to resume their proper line of work: smuggling cargo. 

Of course, the plan goes awry almost instantly, as Luke Skywalker intervenes to be the moral compass that annoys Han so greatly. “I’ve got a favor to ask,” Luke says. It’s not truly a favor, however. Even though Han and Chewie have just finished counting their hard-earned loot, they are back in action as agents of the Rebellion. And, if you’re a keen imbiber of Star Wars multimedia, you’ll probably guess that the plan never goes smoothly from the jump. 

Writer Greg Pak and artists Chris Sprouse and Karl Story conjure up a Star Wars tale that is true to the spirit of the Original Trilogy (and the early Marvel run) while being a self-contained galaxy of pure space fantasy. This is Star Wars how it’s meant to be enjoyed: constant cliffhangers and feats of a pure heart. Pak has a sharp way of making the dialogue sound just like Harrison Ford or Mark Hamill. Every twist and turn feels like a natural extension of this universe; everything is in place. 

Fans jaded by more recent Star Wars media will feel right at home here. Sprouse’s pencils and Story’s inks transport readers right down to the grittiness that always set Star Wars apart from other science fiction. The Millennium Falcon has never looked finer in a comic story and that’s a monumental achievement in and of itself. 

If there is a flaw, it’s that by the end of the book, the constant trope of Han and Chewbacca finding themselves in a deeper mess becomes a tired one. While their shtick hasn’t changed since the ‘70s—and is definitely fun to read—by the time it’s been done several times over, it’s time to find a new angle to their rapport (at least in a single issue).

For Star Wars aficionados and newcomers to the franchise alike, Age of Rebellion: Han Solo #1 presents a solid story of discovering one’s moral fortitude in a sea of darkness.

Final Verdict: BUY.

Next week the fight continues in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1!

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