Savage Axe of Ares: Going to War

John Barber sharpens his storytelling skills on an amazing Ares adventure

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SAVAGE AXE OF ARES preview art by Jefte Palo
By Jim Beard

Writer John Barber's got an axe to grind with the God of War in April 7's SAVAGE AXE OF ARES black-and-white one-shot.

"When my editor, Jody LeHeup, asked me to pitch a story, he told me the title of the book: THE SAVAGE AXE OF ARES," says Barber. "That suggested something in itself. I think Ares is a really cool character, and I'd been following his reappearance in the Marvel Universe, then in MIGHTY AVENGERS and DARK AVENGERS.

"Now, in all the Marvel black-and-white anthologies, the idea is to do retro-or at least classic-takes on the characters. But Jody suggested something really cool, which was that he'd really like to see at least one of the stories in the anthology be a sword-and-sorcery type story. That appealed to me a whole lot. I just got that as a concept really easy. Ares was a god so he's been around forever and doing a story set in what I like to call 'Conan times' seemed like a great time for him."

Barber's approach to his Ares story meant reaching back into work that inspired him to in turn write a tale that he hopes may please other aficionados of the motif.

"I'm a huge fan of the Marvel CONAN series," he notes. "The Roy Thomas/Barry Windsor Smith stuff was massive to me as a comics reader, and the other Thomas stuff wasn't too far behind, like John Buscema with [Alfredo] Alcala inking/finishing. But as a reader and as a writer the stuff that influenced me the most, more than the Robert E. Howard stories, was Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion books. Moorcock had a level of self-awareness about what he was doing but it didn't come off as pastiche; sort of like Jim Thompson with crime novels, he pushed things further than had gone before. I don't know how much of that actually makes its way [SAVAGE AXE OF ARES], but that was what I was thinking about. This

SAVAGE AXE OF ARES preview art by Jefte Palo
story, to me, had to have that darker, bleaker tinge. It couldn't be a happy story, except maybe for Ares, but from our point of view what makes Ares happy is pretty messed up."

With Ares inspiring the savagery of the one-shot's title, Barber's goal of portraying the son of Zeus in all his warring glory fell into place.

"What I really wanted to get was a straight-up action story but with a web of betrayal and people looking out for only themselves and not being able to see what they were going to bring down upon themselves," he stresses. "It's a sword-and-sorcery noir, in a way.

"Ares is the god of war, and wars aren't inherently noble or good. You might go to war for a noble reason, but the warfare itself is always something else. And in these savage times of basically pre-historical mankind, war seemed to me to be something that would be really, really horrible-just brutal fights between tribes of people battling for reasons that, to our more cultured minds, would seem so arbitrary and useless. And from Ares' point of view, well, that's great. That's his wheelhouse. This isn't the Ares of today, who as brutal and powerful as he [is] has maybe mellowed a little bit. There's more honor to the character as he neared the end of his life than I would imagine there was at the dawn of civilization."

Barber's artistic partner on the story, Jefte Palo, scored big points with the writer for his ability to deftly juggle the pain and the pathos of the story.

"He's absolutely the reason I wrote this particular story," Barber notes. "I think Jefte is one of the best artists in comics right now. There's not a panel in the story that he didn't knock out of the ballpark. And he was doing this [during] the first blizzard to hit Barcelona since 1962! When you tell him 'Ares strangles the giant snake' what you get is a god choking the life out of the kind of dragon than gives a god a real hard time. You can feel the struggle. He's amazing."

SAVAGE AXE OF ARES preview art by Jefte Palo
Amazing also describes the other creative teams and their stories in SAVAGE AXE OF ARES, according to editor Jody LeHeup.

"John's story really is fantastic and sure to be a treat for fans of the character who might not have seen him in this context before," LeHeup promises. "John and Jefte really brought their A game on this story and we're very lucky to have them.

"Lucky for me I can happily say the same for the other contributors to the book. In a Cold War story by Gregg Hurwitz and C.P. Smith, Ares acts as guardian angel of sorts to two men who've just stolen a Doomsday weapon. Ted McKeever's tale takes us to Iraq and features Ares in battle with a monster of myth where the lives of American combat troops hang in the balance. And Duane Swierczynski provides a prose story set in Medieval Poland, in which Ares attempts to aid a lone villager who must overcome overwhelming enemy forces in order to save his village from certain destruction."

For more on the other stories featured in SAVAGE AXE OF ARES, check back next week on Marvel.com!

 

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6 comments
artiebillymac
artiebillymac

Can't wait as i loved the mini from awhile ago & this just adds to my likings to the god of war ,just hope it shows why he has that mantle .

darkxman123
darkxman123

[quote@codepath uhhhh, Ares is dead.codepath[/quote] in the present but not in conan times i loved ares and was pissed when he died i have to pick it up

silentprocess
silentprocess

Like that's stopped Marvel before...... Plus this story takes place prior to that.

codepath
codepath

uhhhh, Ares is dead.codepath

StarSpangledAvenger
StarSpangledAvenger

I am a "new" Ares fan and a fan of the old Conan stories from back when Arnold was the barbarian and not the Governator. This looks incredible! I once read that Hercules was a brawler, Thor is a warrior, and Ares is a soldier. Im anxious to see how he is portrayed in his "prime".

professorhulk
professorhulk

Wow. I know nothing about Ares. I never read Mighty or Dark Avengers. But man this looks like !@#$% wickid story!!! I love the whole black and white thing! Wow.