Ripped from a savage world ruled by magic and dropped at the outskirts of a modern city, feared warrior the Mongrel King is found and rescued by a homeless man who guides him through a new land with new vices and hardships in Berserker Unbound #2.
There should be little doubt by now that Jeff Lemire is one of the preeminent writers in comics. His ability to twist expectations with the way he commands a story and the dialogue used can be some of the most exciting things in a comic book – when he’s on form.
Berserker Unbound #2 seems to be a comic where Lemire isn’t on form. It’s an issue that is almost completely at odds with the one before it. Whereas Berserker Unbound #1 had some balls-to-the-wall action and more gore than a horror convention, the second issue is basically two men talking at each other. I say at each other and not to each other because neither the Mongrel King nor the newly introduced Joe Cobb has any idea what the other is saying. It makes for some interesting moments, but ultimately the comic ends in almost the same place it begins.
Or does it?
Through the course of the second issue the homeless Joe Cobb introduces the Mongrel King to life on the streets of New York City, the struggle for food, safety and shelter (and alcohol) for the most unfortunate of the city’s inhabitants, with Cobb assuming that the Mongrel King is another lost soul like himself. Conversely, the barbarian is trying to find his way home, and having no idea what Cobb is saying, is trusting him to find the wizard he needs to transport him home.
The pace of this comic is glacial in comparison to the first issue, mirroring the frustration and impatience of the title character in a world he doesn’t understand.
Mike Deodato Jr.‘s artwork captures the essence of sword and sorcery comics and book covers from the Silver Age, and he’s able to give the giant Mongrel King a subtle gracefulness to his movements that belies his size. As the issue progresses, you can see the changes in the barbarian’s posture as his new surroundings confuse and anger him further and further. But perhaps the largest key to sussing out the Mongrel King’s emotions is in the coloring of Frank Martin. Shifting colors from a vibrant hue to a muted grey and blue tone as the characters move into a setting where their individuality is swallowed by the masses; where they become one with the masses for a brief moment. Two faces in the crowd.
When it comes to any story written by Jeff Lemire, I usually find there’s a slower start to where the writer establishes his setting – that wasn’t the case last issue, and with the slower pace in Berserker Unbound #2 I can’t help but feel that this is a deliberate choice to illustrate the mundanity and hopelessness of the Mongrel King’s new situation – Lemire is the kind of writer that has a long game in mind, and I have every intention of sticking around to find out what that is.
Story: Jeff Lemire Art: Mike Deodato Jr.
Color: Frank Martin
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy
Dark Horse provided a FREE copy for review. I’ve added this to my pull list.