It’s clobberin’ time as the Mongrel King finally comes face to face with the sorcerer and his men who killed his family and cruelly dominated his people. An ambush in the woods goes south in bloody fashion. Who will survive and how many limbs will remain attached? Find out in our Major Spoilers review of Berserker Unbound #4 from Dark Horse Comics.
Writers: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mike Deodato, Jr.
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: Steve Wands
Editor: Daniel Chabon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: November 6th, 2019
Previously in Berserker Unbound: Having fled his own reality after the murder of his wife and child, the barbarian known only as the Mongrel King has stumbled onto our reality. After allying with a homeless man and attempting to navigate the perils of the modern world, the Mongrel King finds him wounded at a moment of maximum peril…
KNOW, OH PRINCE, THAT BETWEEN THE YEARS WHEN…
From my perspective, reviewing two comics every week for Major Spoilers, and reading a half dozen other titles, I haven’t come across artwork as stunning, as impactful, indeed, beautiful, as I have with Berserker Unbound #4 this year.
In an issue where the story is perfunctory, it is Mike Deodato Jr’s artwork that takes the lead. Every page, every panel has something to look over with your mouth agape at the sheer talent displayed. The majority of Berserker Unbound #4 is an extended fight scene, where the forces of The Mist, led by a demonic sorcerer, attempt to kill the titular character. It goes…badly for them.
Having befriended a homeless African-American in the nameless American city he find himself, the Mongrel King has attempted to orient himself there after leaving his dead wife and child behind him. All his has gained for his efforts are failure and a bleeding wound. Now, back in the forest on the edge of the city where the homeless man finds shelter, the Mongrel King has to escape the ambush with his life.
While I did say Jeff Lemire’s story in this issue is perfunctory, it isn’t without its impact. Taking a leaf from characters like Frodo from Lord of the Rings, Lemire gifts the homeless man, Buddy, a man with no agency or power in his own world, the ability to solve the situation for the better. While sword and sorcery fiction is often a power fantasy revolving around main characters who cannot be defeated, here Lemire subtly undermines all that by allowing Buddy the opportunity to win the day.
BUT BACK TO THAT ART
Much of the early part of Berserker Unbound #4 is told without dialogue. The Mongrel King spends those early pages ambushing the ambushers, in a variety of delightfully bloody ways. Deodato’s art is spectacular. The intricacy of the forest setting, how his artwork and the russet hues of Frank Martin’s coloring come together to create atmosphere and a sense of place, are wonderful examples of the great strengths of the comics genre. The sheer physicality of the Mongrel King, a barbarian in the mold of Conan, and that of his ambushers, are lovingly portrayed in every bulging muscle or stretched tendon. How Deodato uses panels to convey the story, breaking up the action across a strip of three, provides an education to younger artists about how to tell a story simply through images. Good use of angles demonstrates the power of the Mongrel King, while excellent composition underlines the threat of the attackers against him.
At the end, and without giving it away, Lemire’s story and Deodato’s artwork come together in a compelling way, as the Mongrel King and Buddy face their pasts as they look to the future. These last pages present poignant scenes of loss and attempting to come to terms with that loss. While not as spectacular as earlier pages, the finale is just as impactful and provides a lump in the throat moment that is the perfect ending to a spectacular run of issues.
BOTTOM LINE: THRILL INDUCING
Fans of action and adventure will have their fill of both reading Berserker Unbound #4. Lemire ties up all the loose ends, while Deodato’s artwork will having you returning to the issue again and again.
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Berserker Unbound #4
A spellbinding example of the brilliance of great artwork in the comic’s genre, Berserker Unbound provides the sort of catharsis that only carving apart your enemies with a great big bloody sword can provide. A remarkable display of artwork by Deodato provides the reader with not only an entertaining read, but for those who love roleplaying or writing fantasy fiction, pages and pages of inspiration.