Review – BRZRKR: Volume 1
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Artist: Ron Garney
Colourist: Bill Crabtree
Letterer: Clem Robins
Release Date: September 29th 2021
I wanted to love BRZRKR right from the start. This is a violent, sci-fi story about an immortal soldier with the likeness of Keanu Reeves, (who is also co-writing the series!) If that sentence doesn’t sound like the most awesome thing that you have read all day, then I’m afraid we can’t be friends.
The main issue with this first volume is that it spends most of its time trying not to live up to its bad-ass description. Instead it seems far more interested in giving us a run-of-the-mill meandering prehistoric backstory of how BRZRKR came to receive his powers.
When three out of four issues in this volume centre around caveman Keanu, rather than futuristic killing machine Keanu, this becomes a problem. Below I will give my thoughts on each issue in the volume, before summing up my overall thoughts in the conclusion.
As long as you don’t go in expecting something cerebral here, then Keanu Reeves and Matt Kindt’s writing in the first issue is totally serviceable. As expected, we are treated to an incredibly formulaic opening that even features the classic cliché of the hero jumping out of an aircraft without a parachute and managing to land totally unscathed.
The ensuing over-the-top action scene lets the reader know exactly why he is called BRZRKR as we see him ripping off arms and stabbing a henchman with another guy’s spine. The sequence is a lot of fun and discloses to the reader exactly the type of series we are in for going forward.
This scene takes up roughly the first two thirds of the issue and features a good number of pages with hardly any text. Unfortunately this means that a good portion of the pages in the issue are almost devoid of any text bar a few voiceover lines from a conversation happening in the aftermath of the opening sequence.
The main problem with the writing in this issue is that BRZRKR is very hard to relate to. This is most likely down to the fact that he is a predominately mute killing machine for the vast majority of this first issue.
The concept of the character is also far from original. There were several times in the issue where I was reminded of Wolverine and the characters from The Old Guard, but the property it is most similar to is Bloodshot. In saying that though, originality isn’t everything and this is a remarkably fun take on the concept of an immortal soldier.
Rob Garney’s artwork in the issue has a scraggly, rough aesthetic to it that I really enjoyed in this first issue. I felt that the unpolished style suited the story being told and the character at the centre of it. There are also some striking 3 panel pages and splash pages that are awesome to look at. I also enjoyed the depiction of gore in the book, which had a certain fluidity to it whenever it was on display.
I also thought that Garney captured the likeness of Keanu Reeves really well and although it was unmistakably Keanu, the character’s look never detracted from the plot in any sort of detrimental way. The environmental artwork also allowed the reader to keep up with all off the fluid action and fighting happening on the page. At no point did I feel confused as to where we were in the environment.
The one aspect of the artwork that I felt there was room for improvement in was the colouring. Bill Crabtree uses a lot of reds and other hot colours here. This would be fine as it adds a certain intensity to the artwork, but it is used in an overabundance to the point where it becomes difficult to discern what is happening in certain panels. There are certain objects that just don’t stand out and end up blending into the background due to some of the choices made by Crabtree.
BRZRKR #1 is a fun first issue that any fan of over-the-top action comics will thoroughly enjoy. It is not going to deliver a highbrow look at what it means to be mortal in the way that Watchmen does, but at the same time it is not trying to. It is trying to be an in-your-face action comic full of fun and it totally delivers on this front.
Unfortunately this second issue is the first to be used purely to show us a flashback to how Keanu’s character received his BRZRKR powers in the first place, 80,000 years ago. The story being told via flashback lasts for the entire 22 pages of the issue and it is an extremely jarring change of pace from the first issue.
The writing is fairly ham-fisted through issue #2 and it soon becomes apparent why there was so little dialogue used in the first issue; because the writers aren’t very good at writing dialogue for this character.
One positive in this issue is that Ron Garney’s scraggly style of artwork works remarkably well for this Stone Age story. The unpolished aesthetic of the art matches the rough, primal look and feel of the ancient landscape that serves as the backdrop for the flashback.
That said, I didn’t feel that there were as many striking splash pages in this issue as there were in the first and the sense of fluidity that was present throughout the first issue’s artwork is sadly missing here. It is instead replaced by a more stubborn, stunted style of illustration. However I do wonder if that was a conscience choice made by Garvey for this issue, as it is set in a stockier and less free-flowing era of history.
The violence that many may be hoping for following the brutality of the first issue’s artwork is thankfully present in this issue also. Spines are kicked out, heads are ripped off, several disembowelments are on display and it all looks as gritty and as graphic as you could hope for.
Ironically, the one aspect of the artwork that I criticised in the first issue was the colouring by Bill Crabtree. Here I actually much preferred the colouring choices he made and really enjoyed the several of the contrasting colour palettes used through the issue. The one sequence that I thought looked a bit garish and unclear was the sequence where BRZRKR’s mother was impregnated by lightening? However other than that the colouring worked well in this issue.
For yet another squandered issue we follow BRZRKR through a flashback from 80,000 years ago. Instead of getting the cool, spec-ops, immortal soldier story that was set up in the first issue, we get more crappy caveman nonsense.
The lame reasoning of the therapists trying to find out where BRZRKR came from justified one issue set in the Stone Age, but two issues is pushing it. For some reason Matt Kindt and Keanu have decided to stick to with the naff caveman setting and it is quickly getting old.
Something else that is becoming blatantly obvious as these issues go on is that Reeves and Kindt do not know how to write decent dialogue. The first issue used minimal dialogue, so this wasn’t a problem at that point. However, with issues 2 and 3, the poorly-written old timey dialogue is becoming extremely tiresome to read through.
I said in my review for BRZRKR #2 that the one positive in that issue was Ron Garney’s scraggly art style as it worked well with the primal backdrop. Unfortunately, by BRZRKR #3, I have started to tire of the unpolished look of the illustration and it is starting to give off an unfinished vibe that is lacking in quality rather than the cool intentionally dishevelled feel that it provided in the first 2 issues.
If I had to say one positive thing about the artwork in this issue, it would be that I enjoyed the way that the murder montage was laid out on page 9 of the issue. I guess it could also be said that the artwork is of a consistent level of quality and Bill Crabtree does a serviceable job when it comes to the colouring in the issue.
The thing that struck me the most in this issue was the choice to end the ‘first volume,’ and therefore the first story arc in this fashion. What I mean by that is; nothing really happens in this issue. Sure his mother dies, it has absolutely zero impact and isn’t worth more than a passing thought.
Other than that half-baked piece of clumsy character motivation though, the actual plot in this issue is painfully basic. Keanu’s parents have a fight, Keanu goes to battle with his dad, Keanu and his dad come back to find his mother dead. Then Keanu leaves his father to die and then Keanu gets killed and obviously comes back from the dead.
Although this may sound like quite a lot happens in the issue, because none of it is actually explored in any depth, it all feels shallow and pointless. Yet again, this is a total waste of an issue in terms of storytelling. The lack of dialogue in the issue again speaks to Kindt and Keanu’s inability to pen decent dialogue.
In terms of art, it is the same straggly nonsense as seen in the first three issues and the style really starts to wear thin over time. The most interesting visual in the issue is the sequence where Keanu is torn apart limb from limb and then resurrected via a weird fleshy cocoon. That said, it isn’t really anything that we haven’t already seen before in a Wolverine book.
Again, the colouring from Bill Crabtree is painfully basic. The colouring through these last three issues has had a lazy, paint-by-numbers feel to it. The flashback scenes are all made up of reds, oranges and other hot colours and the present day stuff is all blues and greys and colder colours. This gives the whole issue an overly simple look which lacks in detail.
Maybe this just applies to me, but I didn’t review BRZRKR: Volume 1 to get a 10,000 BC-style experience. I wanted a high-octane modern day action romp with futuristic violence and military action. I did not go in wanting to see what is essentially Far Cry: Primal starring Keanu Reeves.
This series is yet to truly deliver on the premise that it set up in its first volume and although I do intend on picking up issue five, if it fails to deliver again, I will be well and truly done with this series. Unfortunately, after reading BRZRKR: Volume 1 for review, I cannot recommend the book to anyone.
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