This article contains major spoilers for Savage Avengers #1, in stores now.
Today, we look at how well Savage Avengers #1 takes advantage of the shared universe aspect of the Marvel Universe.
In “Reason to Get Excited,” I spotlight things from modern comics that I think are worth getting excited about. I mean stuff more specific than “this comic is good,” ya know? More like a specific bit from a writer or artist that impressed me.
This time around, I’m looking at how well writer David Pepose is doing with his first ongoing journey into the Marvel Universe, vis a vis his usage of the shared universe concept in Savage Avengers #1 (by Pepose, Carlo Magno, Espen Grundetjern and VC’s Travis Lanham).
WHAT IS THE POINT OF A SHARED UNIVERSE?
The shared universe concept in comic books has been around since the Golden Age, but since the Marvel Age of Comics sort of started fresh with the Fantastic Four, it wasn’t until Fantastic Four #5 that we really got to see the shared universe in effect and, as it was generally used at the time, it was Jack Kirby and Stan Lee essentially trying to sell us on another comic book, with the Human Torch reading a copy of Marvel’s then-new comic book magazine, the Hulk…
However, while it was initially really just a way to get people to buy other comic books, the Marvel Universe soon became something that fans actively loved so much that it essentially forced DC into having the same sort of highly connected shared universe that Marvel had ( DC did, of course, have a shared universe years before Marvel did, but until the Justice League of America debuted, said connections were generally passive, and only occasional, and even once the Justice League debuted, it was barely referenced in DC’s biggest superhero titles, Superman and Batman). Fans loved how interconnected everything was.
That sense of interconnectivity also served to set up threats with ease, as everyone knew the history of the key bad guys of Character X, so you could easily use that villain for Character Y, as well. We saw this work beautifully with Frank Miller poaching the Kingpin as Daredevil’s arch-rival from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man (Miller offered the early Daredevil villain, The Matador, in return, but they told him no…not really, but that’d be funny, right?).
That sense of history, though, is often NOT used as well as it could be. I recently complained about this with regard to long running TV shows, but it obviously applies to comic books, as well. Just like how TV shows are always introducing some new character with a connection to its heroes, so, too, do comic books often introduce new characters with a new revealed connection to the hero instead of just, you know, using an established character with that established connection. That sense of history, though, was well displayed in Savage Avengers #1.
HOW WELL DID SAVAVGE AVENGERS USE ITS SHARED UNIVERSE?
Outside shared history teams like Fantastic Four and the X-Men, the history of superhero teams in the Marvel Universe, going back to even the Golden Age of comics and the All-Winners Squad, has been “throw a bunch of established characters together and see what happens” and Savage Avengers #1 does this really well.
The issue opens with Set worshipers, who were the people behind Conan’s iconic team-up with Thor a long time ago in What If…? (and also the main source of connection between Conan and the Marvel Universe before Conan fully became part of the Marvel Universe in 2018)…
We then meet Anti-Venom (Flash Thompson) and Daredevil (Elektra), who team up because Flash needs some help in the area and obviously Daredevil knows Hell’s Kitchen better than most anyone, and we learn that the Set-worshippers have their hands on a MADBOMB!
The Madbomb is a sweet throwback reference by Pepose to a device from Jack Kirby’s Captain America run in the mid-1970s. As we have seen in cases like Walter Simonson’s Thor run or Roger Stern, John Buscema and Tom Palmer’s Avengers run, there is so much that can be done just by revisiting earlier, established villain concepts (like Surtur and the Masters of Evil) in a new and exciting way and going to the Madbomb was a great idea, as was the general concept of the issue, which is Deathlok hunting down Conan and the various other heroes all happening to converge on the same area at the same time (much like so many other great superhero team formations of the past).
There’s a real art to the time-honored tradition of introducing a bunch of characters, establishing their history (more necessary the less famous the characters are, you’ll notice that Daredevil doesn’t get a lot of introduction as, well, we all know who Daredevil/Elektra is) and throw them together to see how they interact and Pepose handles it beautifully here (there’s an especially subtle bit where Flash’s ego is stunned a bit to know that he really doesn’t stand out as much as a member of the Avengers as he likely thinks he does, as being a member of the Avengers was a BIG deal to him, but what is a big deal in history?).
Savage Avengers #1 is essentially a love letter to the very idea of the Marvel Universe and I think it will be an absolute blast to continue to see these characters interact in the future (or the past, whatever the case may be).
Okay, this feature is a bit less of a reader-interactive one, as I’m just spotlight stuff in modern comics that specifically impressed ME, but heck, if you’d like to send in some suggestions anyway, maybe you and I have the same taste! It’s certainly not improbable that something you found cool would be something that I would find cool, too, so feel free to send ideas to me at [email protected]!
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