Top Cow is making a name for themselves these days as a publisher of in-your-face comics. With The Darkness, Impaler, Wanted and now this series, they showcase brutal stories in which characters are thrust into gloriously bloody worlds. Like the best genre films of the 80s, these concepts revel in over the top violence, which make you wince and laugh in equal doses. In a fashion similar to the previously mentioned titles, Berserker knows how to wrap such blood letting in an engrossing story. That’s the key to books like this. Devoid of a great premise, they simply become mindless gore fests. Berserker is a head above (pun intended) such exploitation and delivers the goods in a brief package.
With a well crafted story by Rick Loverd we are dropped into the action immediately, or rather Jorn Farris’ hypnotically induced memories of action. Sitting on a doctor’s couch for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Farris relives his time in Afghanistan as part of a military deployment. Kicking in doors and taking names (or prisoners, at least) Farris and his army buddies seem to be enjoying themselves too much until Jorn and his pal Clint become prisoners themselves after destroying a room full of unarmed men.
Finding the man they were after in an unconventional way, the two prisoners receive torture before Jorn wigs out – big time. Breaking his restraints like a madman he rips one of his captor’s arms off, punches another through the face and soon runs out of targets for meat tearing practice. His thankful and surprisingly calm buddy Clint then speaks up, assuming Jorn will free him and they’ll jet off to safety. Um…no. Poor Clint faces the wrong end of Jorn’s Hulk like madness himself and gets his head separated from his body. The end. Wow. Now comics like hyperbole, but I must say this last page is a stunner.
Jeremy Haun’s pencils with Dave McCaig’s colours really sell this tale. Sure there’s heaps of blood, but it’s not over the top. It all appears real and gives a horror edge to this military adventure. It’s filled with darkness and texture in the Afghanistan scenes and real emotion throughout its pages. By now, you’re guessing that this isn’t one for young eyes and you’d be right. Apart from the violence there’s also profanity one every page of this brisk tale.
This is a teaser for this ongoing series and it’s got me hooked. To fill out the pages there’s a great interview with Loverd and Haun, and also actor Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes, Rocky Balboa) and Ross Cundiff, both from DiVide Pictures. It’s a candid and revealing discussion about the unique Norse inspiration behind this book and is well worth a read. I know we fanboys are easily sceptical of actor’s names on the covers of comics, but Ventimiglia seems to know a good idea when he sees it and helps such concepts come to fruition in some form. His Rest series for Devil’s Due was another great concept, so the hunky actor has a good eye for ideas. Rounding out this 24 pager are interviews and art focusing on Top Cow’s upcoming Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer and War of the Witchblades series. Yes, it’s short on story pages, but makes up for it with cool extras an an action laden narrative.
I’m impressed with Berserker. It’s a great intro to a new series and should be lapped up by fans of Paul Verhoeven’s (Robocop) films. Hopefully it can live up to such high expectations. Check out Dale Keown’s two raging covers above, and an interview with Ventimiglia about this title here.