ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Berserker Unbound,’ Issue #3

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Bring out the battle-ax and break out the mead because Berserker Unbound #3 is here for the plunder. Berserker Unbound #3 is published by Dark Horse Comics and written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Mike Deodato Jr., coloring by Frank Martin, and lettering by Steve Wands.

After Berserker Unbound #2s derailed quest, the Great Berserker finds himself at an impasse. To return home, he must unlock the secret behind the strange runes that brought him to our world. But with no trace of warlocks or sorcerers insight, Berserker’s only connection to his strange new land is Joe Cobb, a homeless man with a taste for good wine and even better conversation. Now the Great Berserker must set his sights on the future and where his path leads next.

Berserker Unbound #3

Since its debut, Berserker Unbound has shown a lot of promise with limited payoff. In my review of Berserker Unbound #2, I found the issue was hampered by a language barrier that stymied character development. While still present in Berserker Unbound #3, that language barrier presents less of a problem. In fact, Berserker and Joe’s lack of communication leads to one of the most compelling scenes of the issue. Sitting by the fire, the pair rattle off their inner thoughts. Berseker reflects on his life and loneliness. Joe, on the other hand, speaks of the opposite, offering the looming warrior friendship. Combined with later scenes, this paints Joe in a far more complex light than first shown. Joe mirrors the Great Berserker in ways neither character understands, yet their shared experience bonds them. With this much character development, Joe steals the show in Berserker Unbound #3 easily.

Berserker’s monologues, on the other hand, offer a lot less to love. As much as Lemire excels at breathing new life into retro genres, The Great Berserker has yet to outgrow his influences. The character’s inner narration sounds just as you’d imagine Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian would. His world and history are cartoonishly dramatic. He casually drops tidbits of an overwrought life pulled straight from the pulp fiction aisle. Sure, the masculine rage that masks a deep well of sadness has the potential for great character work, but it hews too closely to his source material. Berserker ends up with the inner voice of a 1920s pulp sword and sorcery hero. Three issues in and Berserker is still bound by his inspiration.

Berserker Unbound #3

Deodato Jr’s art and Martin’s color work look as fine as ever. But even with Deodato Jr’s fantastic art, you can find a sense of untapped potential. Deodato Jr’s panel design is bold and creative. His use of negative space gives Berserker Unbound #3‘s sword and sorcery story a modern graphic design. I would love to see how Deodato Jr would apply that style to a ferocious battle or an act of dark magic, but since most of the issue’s pages follow Joe and Berserker’s fireside chats, Deodato Jr. never gets the chance to run wild.

Berserker Unbound #3 continues the series streak of restrained action with great potential. While it improves upon the flaws that held issue #2 back, it still suffers from dated monologues and a language barrier that prevents its characters from coming together. While Joe Cobb steals the show, Berserker has the chance to break free from Conan the Barbarian’s shadow. With Deodato Jr’s art and Lemire’s talent for innovation, Berserker Unbound #3 gives the series all it needs to break the chains holding it back.

Berserker Unbound #3 is available October 2, 2019 in comic book stores everywhere

 

Berserker: Unbound #3
3.5

TL;DR

Berserker Unbound #3 continues the series streak of restrained action with great potential.