Berserker #2 Review

Berserker #2 Cover BThis is without a doubt the bloodiest comic you’ll ever read. If you’ve seen Punisher: War Zone or Midnight Meat Train recently, this will be right up your alley. It’s received a fair amount of press due to it’s blood soaked pages. However, if that’s all this series had to offer it wouldn’t be worth reading.

You can read Berserker #0 for free on Top Cow’s website to give you an idea of what it’s all about,, but here’s the lowdown: Farris Jorn and Aaron Bural are two wild and crazy guys – literally. Jorn ripped the head of his fellow Marine while in Afghanistan, and upon returning home killed his boss. Bural didn’t fare any better, and tore his beloved girlfriend apart with his own hands.

Apart from their superior strength, and frequent need to wash their clothes, the pair have no clue as to why they’re doing this. This second issue is set right after the events of the first. After freaking out his lover Eva at  their workplace, Jorn is knocked unconscious. When he wakes up he sees Clint, the buddy he killed back in Afghanistan. Agent Rowena from Midgard is chasing Jorn in order to recruit him into her mysterious organisation, before their competition Asgard does. Meanwhile Asgard is head hunting Bural, who in turn is receiving his own visions of the dead, namely his girlfriend Courtney.

Bural then gets interrogated before snapping and Jorn does the same after being approached by Rowena. That’s when things get real messy. Or messier.

We don’t know much more than when we did from the last issue, save from the fact that the people chasing down the two berserkers are, “well-funded, private mercs.” The Norse mythology aspect of the story has yet to unravel, and right now the series has as many questions as spilled intestines in its pages. However writer Rick Loverd has obviously crafted something big, and is just choosing to leak out small details every now and then. Hopefully this strategy keep us as curious as the two main characters to know exactly what’s happening to them and why. The men on the run angle of this issue works and the desperation of the pair (though they never meet) is apparent.

Jeremy Haun’s art is just what it needs to be – gory and raw. I imagine he’d need a shower after drawing each issue. Haun is also more than just a man who knows how to depict anatomy from every conceivable angle – inside or out. He also does a brilliant job with the emotional complexities of the characters, from rage to fear to confusion. Dave McCaig’s colours add the necessary pop at all times.

Make no mistake, this is a title for mature readers. At this point it is crying out for more depth. I don’t know how much longer this series can sustain such a bloodbath without building upon the story, but as I said, hints are starting to break through thanks to Loverd’s handy work. I just hope that Berserker becomes known for more than just its use of the colour red.

It’s difficult to choose somewhat restrained preview pages, devoid of blood and guts, so here you go.

Berserker #2 2

Berserker #2 3

Berserker #2 4

Berserker #1 Review

beserker1You know what Berserker is like? It’s like a Rob Zombie film on paper. This first issue will make sense if you’ve already read the excellent #0 primer, but there’s enough going on here to not be completely perplexed.

It begins, and ends with a car crash, which leaves the bulk of the issue to deal with the how and why of said crash. Aaron and Courtney are a young couple fed up with their boring high school life. They need a break, or at least an escape, and after Aaron freaks out at a wrestling competition, they decide to take the opportunity to skip town for a new life.

Similarly an older couple, Farris and Eva are looking to leave their dull metal shop jobs and sleazy boss. Readers of the #0 issue will know Farris as the captured Marine somehow cursed with an unexplainable rage and a tendency to separate nearby heads from their bodies. There’s no further explanation as to the whys of all the bloodletting just yet, but the Norse mythology angle that was promised in the solicitations is more prominent in this issue.

We are introduced to two agents of some kind, namely Rowena Dauven and Ray Becket. The latter is apparently, “Asgard’s rising star,” and these two have a tug of war over Aaron and Farris. It’s a quick and brutal fight, and just what the interest in the two berserkers is has yet to be shown, but seeds are planted for future issues.

Writer Rick Loverd (Friday Night Lights) paces things well, and conveys the oppressive nature of a small town existence for the two leads beautifully. Jeremy Haun’s art is rich with blood and pulp and tissue and goo. He seems to be enjoying himself. It’s so grotesque that I couldn’t help but laugh at the black comedy of it all, especially the last page which is similar to the closer of the #0 issue. Haun brings forth the shock and horror of the few quick fight scenes splendidly, like a so-bad-it’s-good horror film from the ‘80s.

Without the Norse angle this could easily venture in to more mundane, schlock territory, but I reckon Loverd and Haun are creating a bold series that goes past blood and guts tactics. This book comes to shelves via Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia and his DiVide Pictures and Top Cow were the best publisher to bring it to. With series like Impaler and The Darkness, they get it, and are building an interesting stable of raw, mature titles. 

Berserker #1 p16

Berserker #0 Review

bzpre_interiors_page_011Top 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.

bzpre_interiors_page_022Jeremy 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.

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