Yes, Keanu Reeves co-wrote a comic book, but is it any good? An immortal man rampages through enemy soldiers for the bulk of the debut issue, filling the pages with blood and gore. Vandal Savage meets Wolverine with a bit of John Wick mixed in.
When you’re an immortal, you don’t seem to have many options in terms of careers. You can rise to power as a tyrannical ruler or you can run headfirst into battle as an unstoppable mercenary. The half-mortal / half-God known as Berzerker chose the latter, but after years of violence, he’s ready for it to end. The man is willing to do anything to shuffle off this mortal coil.
BRZRKR had a lot of press around it between the involvement of co-writer Keanu Reeves and the controversial Kickstarter campaign to fund the release of special collected editions. At the end of the day, none of that matters if the comic stinks, so does it deliver? The answer is…sort of.
The idea is interesting enough, however it feels like familiar territory. It’s Wolverine mixed with Vandal Savage with a John Wick vibe. Berzerker can’t be stopped so he basically just walks into combat and literally tears people apart. Bullets, knifes, and explosions may give him pause, but he just keeps going, regardless of how battered and bloodied he is. Where Reeves and co-writer Matt Kindt will really catch our attention is in the mysterious organization that’s partnered with the main character to end his life and what might finally do it.
This first issue is largely a showcase of Berzerker’s abilities and artist Ron Garney delivers on that in spades. It’s a gruesome, action-packed ride that gets more intense with each turn of the page. The protagonist never smiles. In fact, the only expression his face seems capable of is an angry grimace. He goes through hell, but he gets the job done and that’s all that matters. He takes on these violent missions to find a way to end his life, so I’m sure part of him is hoping he’ll just die on the battlefield.
Garney drives home the determined and hardened nature of this man. You get the feeling his skin is rough like sandpaper, although with how frequently he grows new skin, he probably hasn’t had a chance to develop new callouses. Garney finds new and interesting ways to show the action. When you think you’ve seen everything, like when Berzerker plunges his fist into a man’s chest, pulls out a rib and stabs another guy with it, he’s just getting started.
Of course, all this violence is nothing without the color red and colorist Bill Crabtree definitely makes the blood pop on the page. There is often a red background to the action, as if the air itself is filled with blood from this knock-down, drag-out fight. Crabtree gives BRZRKR a gritty texture that works well.
While this issue is largely action, it’s interspersed with a conversation between Berzerker and a doctor. This creates an interesting contrast to all the bloodshed. Letterer Clem Robins keeps this flowing with different color caption boxes to distinguish each speaker, even though you can’t tell who’s talking at first.
If you want an action movie in comic book form, BRZRKR is for you. This debut issue moves at a mile a minute and it’s some of the most impressive fight scenes in comics today. There’s not much to the story just yet so it’s more style than substance. It will take some work to differentiate it from the other immortal warriors we’ve seen in the past. We need to care and relate to Berzerker for us to get invested in his tale. Otherwise, it’s just a gorefest and that will only get you so far.