Review - Berserker Unbound #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"I am the Mongrel king. I am the Berserker. Fighting is all I know. I was born into it, and I will die by the sword."

In modern times there's not really much need for someone with the capability to single-handedly defeat an entire army with just a broad sword and battle axe. Dark Horse Comics feels differently in Berserker Unbound #1. The issue is written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Mike Deodato, Jr., colored by Frank Martin and lettered by Steve Wands.

A merciless sword and sorcery warrior finds himself blasted through a wormhole to a modern-day metropolis where he must protect those around him from an evil wizard determined to send him to hell.

Lemire's premise in the book is ridiculously simple and not even necessarily new, but the way he crafts the narrative is nothing short of brilliant. The entirety of the issue is spent bolstering the bonafides of the Mongrel king as Lemire shows him more than capable in the throes of combat. The majority of the dialogue is a stream of conscious style and Lemire uses the Mongrel king's words very wisely, both to frame the story and to give it purpose. It's very clear that Lemire is drawing upon characters such as Conan in characterizing the protagonist, but he still manages to make him feel unique in his own way. And while the premise of the series feels familiar, Lemire bridges the two worlds relatively seamlessly and gives the fish out of water story a bit more gravitas.

It can't be said enough how stunning the artwork is in the issue as Deodato, Jr., renders a hulking barbarian with a penchant for violence. Deodato, Jr., infuses the Mongrel king with a roughness thanks to his heavy cross-hatching style, alternating in use as both shadows and hair on the main character. And the book has quite a few double-page spreads that are gorgeous; there's one in particular that captures the frenzied rage of a man fighting to avenge his fallen family. Deodato, Jr., was wise to go light on the panel borders as it allows the book to feel free, although there's one-two page spread where the scene is neatly broken up into smaller panels to great effect. Martin's colors are fluid and organic in their approach, offering a rather bloody look at the warrior.

Berserker Unbound #1 is a staggeringly good opening issue. The main character fought for his life and finds himself in a strange new world and it remains to be seen how the narrative unfolds when his biggest advantage (sheer killing prowess) is taken out of the equation. Lemire's story is fast-moving and well-thought out, offering a lead character who's familiar to fans of Robert E. Howard. The artwork by Deodato, Jr., is amazing and does the character and the world tremendous justice. Berserker Unbound #1 is a solid first issue that doesn't tread new ground or redefine any genres, but what it does offer is a tight story and amazing art.

Berserker Unbound #1 is available August 7.