Best Shots Reviews: SAVAGE AVENGERS #1, DCEASED #1

DC May 2019 solicitations
Credit: DC

Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Pierce Lydon here filling in for Best Shots captain David Pepose! We’ve got two new #1s from the Big Two and we’ll kick things off with Joltin’ Justin Partridge’s look at Savage Avengers #1.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Savage Avengers #1
Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Mike Deodato, Jr., and Frank Martin
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

It is a tale of blood magic, beer, and blades in the debut of Savage Avengers. Written with appropriately burly, action-heavy gusto by Gerry Duggan, coming in from the Cosmic side of things, this debut issue delivers precisely what it says on the cover; savagery. Pulling energy both from Marvel’s most dangerous locations as well as the Hyborian Age, Duggan leans into the pulpy concept full bore, though he still falls to the temptation of “team-building”. And I couldn’t imagine better partners for him in this whole bloody affair than Mike Deodato, Jr and Frank Martin. Anyone who hadn’t been previous sold on Deodato will find nothing new to convince them here, but his wild theatricality and flagrantly European style is very hard to deny. Especially handling characters like Conan and Wolverine, in his new classically-inspired costume. While the promise of the full assembly of this team is still on the horizon, Savage Avengers #1 is still brawlingly entertaining.

When we last left that grey-eyed Cimmerian in the pages of Avengers: No Road Home, he had found himself facing down the Savage Land with nothing but a sword at his hip. Savage Avengers #1 thankfully side-steps any more backstory, opening on Conan in mid-fight, supported by some purple prosed narration from Duggan. Conan apparently has picked up his treasure hunting ways in the Savage Land, which has landed him in the crosshairs of the Hand. Duggan has been a steady hand with Conan here recently, having launched Marvel’s sister title Savage Sword of Conan. I’m happy to report that Duggan also proves just the writer to fold him into the more darker, more violent circles of the Marvel Universe as his characterization flourishes as a foil for the Ol’ Canucklehead.

While Conan has been treasure hunting, the Hand has been working up a massive blood-spell. And they just killed Logan’s favorite opera singer. This, obviously, leads to the ol’ “Marvel Misunderstanding” between Wolverine and Conan, objectively the issue’s standout sequence. But I also have to applaud the script’s audacious pulpiness. Yes, of course, I’m frustrated at having to wait for the full team to get together as both Brother Voodoo and the Punisher are relegated to quick cutaways from the Wolvie/Conan focused A-Plot. But, that said, am I still happy I got to see a brutal fight and then team-up between two of comic’s greatest anti-heroes? You damn right I am. Your mileage may vary with Savage Avengers #1 but there is a certain beauty to a modern comic book committing to delivering exactly “what’s on the box”

And who else but Deodato and Martin to bring this bloody tale to life?! While Martin’s colors could have been at least two shades lighter, Deodato’s beefy, dynamic brushes and pencils are more than a match for the two-fisted action of Savage Avengers. Both artists absolutely bring it during the issue’s main showdown, staging the warring characters across a few visually engaging “stages” taking full advantage of the visually anachronistic Savage Land. The whole affair is also shockingly violent for what I would expect from a non MAX or “Parental Advisory”-labeled comic. Frank Martin’s darker color scheme obscures some of the more garish wounds, but they still spread the red throughout this fight as they crash through jungles and snow capped peaks.

This debut also allows Deodato to use his rarely used comedic sensibilities. After they have fought to a stalemate, Logan and Conan find themselves in a beer cellar. In a silent panel sequence, Conan plucks a barrel from the wall, takes a mighty swig, and then shares some with his worthy foe lying regenerating at his feet. It is a quick moment in the scheme of this first issue, but one that adds a punchy sense of humor to the title. One that I hope Duggan, Deodato, and Martin nurture as this series continues.

Brutally simple, but just as effective Savage Avengers #1 reads like a lost Marvel Knights eam-up. Only this one is more Ka-Zar and less Kingpin. If that sounds like your kind of book then Gerry Duggan, Mike Deodato Jr., and Frank Martin have a lovely tract of land in Antartica to sell you.

Credit: Yasmine Putri (DC)

DCeased #1
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano, James Harren and Rain Beredo
Lettering by Saida Temofonte
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Despite its waning popularity, it’s fitting that the zombie concept refuses to die. There was a stretch where you could just pitch anything and tack on “with zombies” and you’d have a hit on your hands. Marvel and DC have both tread these waters before with Marvel Zombies and Blackest Night respectively. But now DC is going back to the well with DCeased from writer Tom Taylor and artists Trevor Hairsine and James Harren. Unfortunately, it’s a book that is about as bereft of creativity as its title would suggest.

While it may not have had the trappings of Darkseid figuring out the Anti-Life Equation with an unwilling assist from Cyborg and then perverting it with some essense of the Black Racer, we’ve gotten a similar kind of outbreak story before. Taylor has made a career of messing around with out of continuity capers like Injustice but the draw of a story like that is the unpredictability of the remix element. Here’s we’ve given a fairly stock, straightforward DCU and it becomes extremely easy to see some of the writer’s process. “DCeased” like “deceased” but also, “diseased.” Zombies are undead but they’re not alive so it’s easy to make the jump to the Anti-Life Equation. And there’s usually a virus that is at the center of a zombie outbreak. Things “go viral” on the internet. Cyborg is connected to the internet so if he’s part of the creation of the perverted equation, then there’s a way for the virus to quickly spread through everyone’s personal devices and Internet connected screens. There are no twists or turns here. This issue just plays like showing your work on a high school algebra test.

To make matters worse, it’s not just the plot that’s unimaginative. Taylor’s character work leaves something to be desired, too. With the issue focused so much on explaining the outbreak, the Justice League and supporting characters seem like facsimiles of themselves. They feel like they’re going through the motions. And that’s part of the blisteringly cold logic of this story. There’s no heart here. There’s no hook. This is just Tom Taylor writing “the DC Universe” and tacking “with zombies” on the end.

The art’s not a huge help here either. Trevor Hairsine character rendering is effective but workmanlike, His Justice League are a little bit lithe than we’re generally used to seeing them but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a real fluidity to his linework that generally works for the book but I’d be hard pressed to call any of his pages or panels memorable. James Harren, however, fills in a few pages in the middle that are set on Apokolips and the book would be better served by him drawing the whole issue. With his thicker lines, deeper inking and the expressive stylization of his characters and paneling, the book gains a lot more energy and momentum. Now, his work is what many would considering “more cartoony” and I understand how that could take away from the horror elements of the book but considering how Hairsine fails to really draw anything scary here, I don’t think we’d be losing anything. Pairing these two together on a book is a bit of an odd idea but it does do a good job of visually breaking up the different settings.

DCeased doesn’t feel like a Tom Taylor book at all and that might be its biggest weakness. It has none of the emotionality that he’s come to embrace as something of a trademark across books like Wolverine, X-Men: Red, and Injustice. His artistic collaborators do their best with a stock a concept but they’re unable to really elevate a concept as flat as just another superhero zombie story. Maybe the writer is holding something back to reveal over the next five issues but if that’s the case, then he failed at crafting a compelling opening.

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