Seriously, it's all their in the title. Everything this issue is about. Four stories set in different time periods before (or maybe even during) the time of Ares being a hero. In them Ares wields a giant ax and does what he does best. If this comic were in color it would have to be rated mature. Hence the "savage" part.
This is a shout-out to the black-and-white anthologies from the seventies. There is even an advertisement of the type often found in those mags.
Red Mercury-Ares acts as a protector for two defecting Soviets only for his true purpose to be revealed at the end.
The Gods Answer All Prayers-Ares teaches a princess to pick her allies more carefully.
Bonebomb Babylon-Ares battles an ancient beast that threatens to interrupt an ongoing battle.
Wojna-Ares is determined to make a young man a hero whether he wants to be one or not.
I think all of these stories are accurate depictions of Ares throughout time. It is good to see him explored beyond the b-villain or somewhat anti-hero he has become. With a character that can be placed in just about any place in history it shows how constant he has been (and by extension human history) has been through the ages. Ironically, Ares is one of the few old gods that can be considered as relevant now as he was in ancient times. Moving Ares a bit beyond a bloodthirsty fighter these stories show how he truly carries out his duties as the god of war and gives him an additional layer of depth.
Of the four stories I think I like the first and third the best. The first showcases Ares's savagery combined with how he can be more than just a brute that swings and axe. The third show a slightly more heroic side to help balance out the other stories. The fourth benefits from showing how Ares views war as something that can make anyone great. The second was interesting due to the different time period, but suffers from in a way rehashing the same point as the first.
The stories here are not kid friendly nor are they about the heroic Ares. They are about Ares as the god of savage warfare, bloodlust and carnage. As I stated earlier if this was color it would be rated mature.
Artwise, I have nothing to complain about. Nothing stands out for me as spectacular, but I do not think it was meant to be. The idea was to tell several stories a bit cheaper than colored. The art each time serves well enough from the story so you know what is going on. In some ways it even compliments it. The only minor complaint I have is two of the stories set before Ares was a hero have him in an outfit similar too or identical to his hero outfit. I suppose it is to make him easier to recognize.
Overall, I would suggest anybody who is a fan of Ares or the mythological side of Marvel should check this out. I would hope to see further books like this in the future. I think characters like Thor, Hercules, or just about anyone could benefit from short stories about different times in their lives. Gods or long-lived being would benefit more by showing what they were like before the modern age.