BERSERKER UNBOUND #1
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Comics
WRITER: Jeff Lemire
ARTIST: Mike Deodato Jr.
Colorist: Frank Martin
Cover Artists: Mike Deodato Jr., Dave Stewart & Mike Mignola
COVER PRICE: $3.99
Ever wonder what it would be like if Conan the Barbarian found himself in modern-day? Well, you’re in luck, because Dark Horse Comics’ new series “Berserker Unbound” is exactly that! While the as yet unnamed character, known only as “The Mongrel King” a.k.a. “The Berserker”, is certainly very much like Conan, in a way he seems more like an homage to Robert E. Howard’s Cimmerian warrior.
As the hulking, red-haired barbarian, who is world-weary of his life of fighting, returns home to his wife and daughter, he finds his family has been slaughtered by a band of wolf-pelt wearing savages, who have also burned his home, and have been waiting for his return to strike. But while the Berserker is more than capable of completely butchering his enemy while full of rage, he is not unharmed by the battle and stumbles away bleeding. As he cowardly flees from more riders, he finds refuge in a cave which contains mystic runes that begin to glow, he is magically transported through time and space to the outskirts of a modern city.
From the creator of “Black Hammer” and the Eisner Award-winning team of writer Jeff Lemire, and artists Mike Deodato Jr., and Frank Martin, this epic twist on the sword and sorcery fantasy is an interesting take on the genre. While the manner in which the ‘Berserker’ is transported to modern-day resembles the way in which Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter comes to Mars, this clever take on the ‘stranger in a strange land’ and fantasy tropes, is an impressive mix. Since this first issue wastes very little time in setting up the plot, we are left with the ‘Berserker’ standing on the edge of a wooded area looking at a city’s skyline. And as any good medieval warrior would do, he exclaims “Zamon’s Beard” at least twice, which harkens back to Silver Age Thor’s “By Odin’s Beard!” or even to Conan’s own Crom.
While the dialogue is simple, the internal monologue gives the reader a little insight into the ‘Berserker’s’ life, while he seems morose and melancholic, he doesn’t appear to be as old as he feels. With no visible scars, Fabio-style hair and a build like Schwarzenegger in his prime, this warrior with a five-o’clock shadow seems more like the ideal “Dungeons & Dragons” barbarian character that we nerds only dream about.
The artwork is what makes this title really stand out as veteran Brazilian artist Mike Deodato (“Thanos”, “The Mighty Thor”) who most is known for redefining and reinvigorating Marvel’s “Thor” during the 1990’s, which gives a truly epic and sprawling scenes, full of blood and carnage of which I can only compare to the level of Frank Miller’s “300”. Frank Martin’s colors as well bring out so much red blood that the pages themselves seem to bleed.
While many of the concepts seem somewhat derivative, I am no less excited to see the continuing adventures of the ‘Berserker’ as he explores this new land, so unlike his own and devoid of magic. I am equally as excited to pick up the variant cover by Mike Mignola (“Hellboy”). If you’re a fan of ‘Conan the Barbarian’, “Dungeons & Dragons”, as well as sword and sorcery fantasy, I hope you will find this new action-packed series invigorating.
*Note: I was particularly interested in the title with its reference to the Old Norse Viking Berserkers, who were warriors (clad in bear-coats) who allegedly fought in a trance-like fury, later giving rise to the modern English word of ‘berserk’. As both a student of history and a fan of fantasy.
Written by Dave “Chernabog” Whiteman, a Native Texan, Metalhead, Writer, Star Woid, Funatic, and all-around Fanboy/Nerd/Geek! 👓