By Jarred A. Luján — Berserker Unbound is the new Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato Jr. book from Dark Horse Comics. I kinda feel like this has flown a little under the radar, but that’s about to change—this first issue is awesome.
Listen, the first half of the book feels like a story we’ve seen before: an angry, barbarian king who spends his time waging war instead of loving his family. Despite that first familiar feeling, the book still lands a big emotional hook pretty well. The story catches you right off the bat with it.
If there is one thing we’ve learned from one of Lemire’s other creator-owned comics, Gideon Falls, it’s that you cannot trust Jeff Lemire. If something feels familiar, you’re being deceived. You should run home and lock your doors, because he is coming for you with something terrifying.
Well, that’s also what happens in this comic. Berserker Unbound #1 pretty quickly ups the ante after that early emotional hook with a bunch of really mysterious magic(?) and teleports our very angry Barbarian King into (seemingly!) the present. It’s a really fascinating turn of events, and after so much of the set ups, I’m tremendously interested to see where our plot is going from here. Most of all, the book looks to be…kind of hilarious. After an entire issue of brooding, dark monologues, the book punctuates itself with a really funny interaction. The joke lands so well, because it hides itself among the otherwise grungy nature of the comic. I hope that tone is one that continues to be used as this comic continues.
As for the art, Mike Deodato Jr. has some SERIOUSLY bananas pages here. Deodato Jr. sets up pages so well and so uniquely. Without going too deep into spoilers, there’s a big emotional page with disjointed panels that sells the pain of our Barbarian King so much better than a standard page would have. It’s unique, it’s inventive, and it adds so much to an already fun story. With that said, the action sequences are everything you could want from a comic starring an axe-wielding muscle man. The big action sequence of this issue feels so bombastic, and it seems to promise more fun to come. Colorist Frank Martin is really a perfect matching for Deodato Jr. as well. Coloring these kind of complex page styles has to be daunting, but Martin nails it on each page, providing a better layer of intensity on a page already brimming with it.
Overall: Berserker Unbound #1 is great fun. It packs unique, bombastic artwork and a plot that is certainly Lemire-esque. The book hooks you, keeps you, and sets up a great series—that’s a damn good first outing. 8.0/10
Berserker Unbound #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mike Deodato, Jr.
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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Jarred A. Luján makes comics, studies existential philosophy, and listens to hip-hop too loudly. For bad jokes and dog pictures, you can follow him on Twitter.