This is the end game for Savage Avengers, at least under Gerry Duggan’s care.

Hyborean sorcerer Kulan Gath has manifested in the 21st century with a master plan to leech the magical energy from an other-dimensional god, and has been largely successful in doing so while fighting off assorted teams of superheroes. Doctor Strange wasn’t involved from the start, but as seen during King in Black, he’s now taking the lead in dealing with Kulan Gath, and has learned that despite all his power, because Conan has killed him before, albeit temporarily, Kulan Gath fears him.

As seen by Patch Zircher’s sample art, this is the volume where an actual Avengers team first appears. That’s because Duggan has hardly shied away from integrating Conan with Marvel’s present day heroes, but in The Defilement of All Things by the Cannibal-Sorcerer Kulan Gath, he opens the doors to the fuller workings of the Marvel universe. It’s quite the surprise, despite fitting the theme of Savage Avengers so precisely, yet because it doesn’t involve a hero, few will see it coming.

Zircher has contributed to most volumes of Savage Avengers, but the art that just doesn’t maximise the possibilities. He tells the story well enough, and there are some extremely decorative pages, seen especially in the opening chapter of Doctor Strange’s tour through strange realms, but the sparkle just isn’t there on too many others. Figures are posed and Conan lacks power.

To some extent that’s meaningless in the face of what Duggan supplies. If Savage Avengers has been fast-paced from the start, the pedal hits the metal here during a full-on race to the finish that still leaves enough room for an equally enthralling epilogue. Many might have sneered on hearing Marvel intended to present Conan in the present day, but Duggan delivers. In early 2023 the entire saga will be released in an Omnibus edition, and that’s worth considering.