Updated: Jan 25, 2020
BERSERKER UNBOUND #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
With the popularity of Conan the Barbarian rising again, in comics, I can't think of a better time for the launch of this new book. While Dark Horse was the previous owner of the Conan property, Marvel now has the rights back. So by Crom!, Dark Horse had to do something about it. Who better to launch a new axe wielding, sword swinging, barbarian series than Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato. This may be called BERSERKER UNBOUND, but this is Lemire writing a script that allows Deodato to unleash his artistic prowess and become unbound. This is the PERFECT book for Deodato and Lemire's thrilling script allows gives just the right amount of story to bloodshed ratio.
The main character, The Mongrel King, is a berserker and fighter that no longer knows why he fights or who he's fighting for. After returning home from a battle he sees his village in flames. But that's not the worst part, he finds a his wife and daughter strewn across the blood soaked dirt. This is where he goes in to a berserker rage and takes out an entire hoard of ravagers. After defeating them single handedly, a mysterious wizard shows himself, and the Mongrel King runs. The battle between the Mongrel King and the ravagers was whirlwind of savagery and blood, Deodato is clearly having the time of his life illustrating this book and it shows with every page.
While the first part of the book is mostly inner dialogue, Lemire really dives into the psyche of this ruthless barbarian. He's a man that struggles with who he is and why he keeps fighting battle after battle. Not the sort of thing that you would think a man of his kind would even care about.
After deeming himself nothing but a coward and finding no real reason to live, he stumbles across a cave. The walls are covered in glowing glyphs. He touches one and thinks he's being transported to Hell, only to wake up in modern New York City. This is where our story truly begins. How will he react to modern times? Will he ever get back? How will society react to him? These questions are what truly intrigue me and make me want to read more.
Lemire has a knack for doing books that are almost homage in nature but at the same time, fresh and exciting. This is a perfect example of it. He takes the otherwise strong and fearless "barbarian" archetype and adds new layers that make it feel new and interesting. The pairing with Deodato only makes the book even more of a must read. This is clearly Deodato sending the comic book community a message, just because he retired from Marvel doesn't mean he's going anywhere. His work on this series is on a whole new level, it's like he's been reinvigorated after diving into the fountain of youth.
This is a perhaps one of the most fun concepts I've read in years. Lemire and Deodato have turned the sword and sandals genre on it's head. They both have put everything on the table with this one. It's not only worth every penny, but I can assure you that this is the start of something special.