It’s three issues into Berserker Unbound when it dawned on this reader: For a comic about a ravaging barbarian warrior, there is surprisingly very little combat. While the first issue of Berserker Unbound is almost cover to cover sword fighting and bloodshed, those elements are nearly completely absent in issues two and three. It’s not a bait-and-switch per se, since issue three sets up issue four to be action packed, but it is an interesting turn for the comic and an intriguing take on the subject matter. It's more introspective, in particular diving into the themes of loneliness. Physically, there is a world of difference between the Berserker and Cobb, but, internally, both share the same fate: being alone, outcast from society, and having lost family.
Another point of interest is how increasingly fragmented the panels have become in this issue. Issue one featured mostly wide, two-page spreads with only a few panels broken into smaller components. Issue two had a few more instances, but issue three it is almost kinetic in how fragmented and broken each panel is, almost as if each page was a solved, sliding puzzle. Such presentation adds a sense of action to each page, even if the only activity occurring is dialogue.
As with the prior two issues, the artwork of Berserker Unbound is top notch. The forest encampment of Cobb still retains a borderline fantasy element to it, cloaked in dark shadows of menacing trees. The characters are depicted emotive and interesting, yet still dipping into the sword and sorcery art style that adorned paperbacks and RPG books from the '70s and '80s.
Overall, with three-fourths of the story told, Berserker Unbound has an unexpected journey. The series’ title and the first issue really convey an epic fantasy, high-action concept, yet the narrative takes a completely different route into melancholy. While there are many tales of barbarians losing their family and seeking revenge (such as the films, Hundra and Conan the Barbarian), Berserker Unbound dives into this aspect of the genre with a more critical and perhaps sympathetic eye.
Creative Team: Jeff Lemire (writer), Mike Deodato Jr. (art, cover artist), Frank Martin (colorist, cover artist), Steve Wands (letterer), Dustin Nguyen (variant cover artist)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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