Writers: Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt
Artist: Ron Garney
Color Artist: Bill Crabtree
Letterer: Clem Robins
Cover Artist: Rafael Grampá
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
The hype behind BRZRKR has been palpable, mainly due to Keanu Reeves’s name being attached to the series as co-writer. That Matt Kindt would join the team as co-writer as well, with Ron Garney taking on art…well, there’s really not much one can do but join the hype train.
Thankfully, BRZRKR #1 mostly earns all the attention it’s attracted. The first entry is basically a single action sequence with enough violence and gore flying around to make Quentin Tarantino blush. Everything jumps out of any given page with its eighties’ action movie influences worn proudly on its sleeves, but it comes at the expense of story.
For such a long-awaited comic, this first issue feels more like a #0 issue rather than a proper first issue, meaning readers shouldn’t expect a lot of plot development beyond what we already knew from the series’ synopsis, give or take a new detail here and there. While this means that style definitely wins the battle over substance, style really does go out of its way to make everyone’s interest stay piqued.
The story opens with the main character, B, drawn by Garney to look like Reeves himself, diving headfirst into a suicide mission that seems tailor-made for the half-god/half-mortal soldier. B is a freight train of violence, punching through people’s faces or beating them senseless with their own limbs as he hunts down the mission’s target.
It’s all expertly orchestrated with Garney making each moment seem like a scene that’d feel right at home in a Hollywood blockbuster movie. I once heard the former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics Axel Alonso say that making comics is like being given an endless budget to tell your story so long as what comes out of it fits inside the comic. BRZRKR takes this to heart, and yet it still feels like millions of dollars were poured over each page to make it look as spectacular as possible (which unfortunately doesn’t actually happen in comics, but one can dare to dream).
There’s a fair amount of character development amidst the violence, though. B’s rage does indicate that killing has been the defining factor of his long, long life. There are hints of an internal struggle with all the deaths he’s authored and the memories he has of them. In this regard, B has a certain Wolverine-like vibe to him, perhaps with a little of Greg Rucka’s The Old Guard thrown in for good measure.
This isn’t to say B is a rip-off of either one of them, but it does leave one curious as to how the character will ultimately differentiate himself from both Logan and the immortal warriors of Rucka’s comic. That said, B does feel as if he has his own personality and his attempts at remembering everything from his past can lead into something bigger and unique for the series should it get the attention it deserves.
The final pages give readers a glimpse as to how this will go down, with some very exciting images and ideas coming to the fore. More of that will surely drive the story home and maybe clear the road for a larger universe should the creators want to extend their stay with the character they created.
Reeves and Kindt’s script might be light on story, but what’s presented throughout opens up enough questions to justify adding the comic to your pull list. The first issue sets up a long and hard look into an immortal warrior’s past, with more than a few stops in historical battlefields along the way, and the blood and gore we see in the first pages alone seems to tease some truly gruesome things to come, but a bit more story would’ve made this debut astonishing. As it stands, it’s intriguing. It just needs to deliver on story come issue #2.
Published by BOOM! Studios, the first issue of BRZRKR arrives in stores and digitally on Wednesday, March 3rd.
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Going for a bit of the ol’ Ultraviolence.
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