Life’s tough in the big city, even if you’re a muscle-bound warrior king. The Mongrel King, known as the “Great Berserker,” was magically transported to the strange realm known as Central Park. Now in the modern world, the “Great Berserker” finds himself a stranger in a strange land. Its streets line themselves with gleaming structures as tall as the eye can see, while iron chariots sprint across asphalt lanes faster than any horse. Now the “Great Berserker” must find his way back to the brutal battlefields he calls home.
Joined by a homeless man named “Joe Cobb”, “The Great Berserker” seeks answers among the painted runes of Central Park. Will he ever find his way home? To find out, you’ll have to crack open Dark Horse Comics’ Berserker Unbound #2, written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Mike Deodato Jr, with colors by Frank Martin, and lettering by Steve Wands.
After last week’s action-packed debut issue, Berserker Unbound #2 is a bit of a disappointment. In my review of Berserk Unbound Issue #1, I wrote that while the series ‘Urban Barbarian’ premise isn’t exactly breaking new ground, it still showed “potential to be great.”. After all, Jeff Lemire made his name in comics by taking common archetypes and turning them on their head. That could still happen with this series, but Berserker Unbound #2 doesn’t do it any favors.
A hard foil to the series debut, this issue follows Berserker’s first days in the modern world. Rather than jumping into battle with elevated trains, Berserker accompanies the homeless Joe Cobb on his rounds, exposing the warrior king to American poverty. That’s a loaded branch for complex storytelling, but not one that blooms within the issue.
The greatest challenge facing Berserker Unbound and its creative team is finding the series voice. From Hercules In New York to George of The Jungle, Jeff Lemire’s hulking Berserker joins a long line of pulp fantasy heroes who’ve found their way to the modern world. What distinguishes those muscled wild men from one another is what their stories are trying to say.
Berserker Unbound #1 hewed closely to the fantasy tropes of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, dialing up the issue’s melodrama and hyper violence to laughable degrees. Thanks to that sharp self awareness and Mike Deodato’s silver age inspired artwork, Berserker Unbound’s fantastical fish out of water story set itself apart from the pack.
Berserker Unbound #2, on the other hand, hammers us over the head with mundanity. Berserker and Joe spend the entire issue talking to one another. But since neither character can understand the other, their monologues go in circles. These scenes stall the plot in the same position it started.
Sure, Joe takes Berserker on a grand tour of homeless life. But since neither character speaks each other’s language, the dialogue lacks the electricity found in other Lemire written comics. The language barrier also stifles the series’ self-aware absurdity, as neither character gets the chance to riff off one another.
With all that being said, there’s still hope for Berserker Unbound. Berserker Unbound #2 shows us what happens to a quest deferred, but in its absence what quests may come?
Lacking the self-aware edge that defined the series debut, Berserker Unbound #2 sets a mundane stage for our larger than life hero, but does little to live up to Berserker’s savage reputation. There’s still a chance that a great story could develop in Berserker Unbound. But its certainly not in this issue.
Berserker Unbound #2 is available
Beserker Unbound #2
Lacking the self-aware edge that defined the series debut, Berserker Unbound #2 sets a mundane stage for our larger than life hero, but does little to live up to Berserker’s savage reputation.