Writers: Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt
Artist: Ron Garney
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artists: Rafael Grampà (regular)/Rafael Grampà, Mark Brooks, Lee Bermejo, Dan Mora & Jonboy Meyers
Editors: Eric Harburn & Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $4.99 US
If Brzrkr goes down in comics history for anything, it will be as a massive marketing success. This is far from the first time we’ve seen a celebrity-driven comic, but I don’t think a property intended as a launching pad/pitch for an other-media pet project for an actor or singer has ever caught the marketplace’s attention like this one has. Maybe it speaks to the star power of Keanu Reeves, or perhaps the delays in the release of this title helped to drive a level of anticipation we haven’t seen before. But I suspect it’s a combination of factors, not the least of which is the speculator-driven collectability side of the industry that’s become so prevalent in recent years. Collectors out there hoping to make big bucks from the proliferation of exclusive variant covers likely won’t see the windfall for which they’re hoping. There’s going to be so many copies of this comic out there that the chances of any significant value increases ought to be remote. But there’s a more significant question that I want to answer here…
Is this comic any good?
Well, the short answer is that it isn’t bad. It’s also not particularly pleasant, but given the title, that shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Brzrkr is a solidly told comic-book story, but when you tap talents such as Matt Kindt and Ron Garney, you have the sort of experience and offbeat perspectives necessary to tell an extreme yarn such as this. But aside from the particularly visceral violence, there’s little that’s all that remarkable about Brzrkr. The premise and ideas explored here feel more than a little familiar, and that’s due in no small part to a rather ubiquitous comic-book character that’s taken us down similar paths many times before.
An indestructible warrior guides a platoon of black-ops soldiers into a foreign country on a mission targeting its unsavoury leader, and during the entire mission, the grunts are in awe and horror at the ferocity and impossible feats performed by the figure leading the way. But what does this unyielding, unkillable warrior willingly participate in what to him must seem like a small task directed by small men? He wants answers about his seeming immortality, and he yearns to be like other men. But something else is happening inside him, something stemming from his memories, his emotions… and possibly his humanity.
What most interested me about this book was the art of Ron Garney. I’ve long been a fan of his linework ever since I was first exposed to it with Mark Waid’s 1990s run on Captain America. There’s a much rawer, more intense quality to the storytelling here, so obviously, what we get here is much different than his work from decades ago. Garney clearly channels the influences of grittier artists here, such as John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson and even Frank Miller, and it works for this subject matter. The violence is unflinching, gratuitous and gory, and honestly, actually depicting the ugliness of it felt like the wrong choice. I think suggesting the horrors and showing them through the other characters’ reactions would have made for better storytelling.
Garney does a solid job of crafting the main character to resemble Keanu Reeves, making the intent of this comic as a precursor to an adaptation in another medium crystal clear. The main character is a lot bulkier than Reeves; he’s depicted as a mountain of a man, almost monstrous. It will be interesting to see how that’s handled when the inevitable movie takes shape.
If I had to sum Brzrkr up for someone thinking of checking it out, I’d describe it as being like The Old Guard, if the undying heroes of that story worked within the military industrial complex instead of trying to stay off its radar. Ultimately, the plotting here feels very much by the numbers. It’s competent and the action is thrilling, but the story also feels predictable. In comics, we’ve been down this road before, many times, so we know where the curves lead.
Everything about this character reminds me of early interpretations of Wolverine of the X-Men. He was a longer, haunted by his past. He would give in to his animal side – to his berserker rages, as comics writers came to call them – and do any brutal task to complete his mission, but he was also full of self-loathing. His memory was unreliable and spotty, the results of a long life and experiments that ripped apart his body and mind. All this Keanu character is missing are the claws, the costume and similarly superhuman compatriots. Brzrkr is perfectly serviceable comics storytelling, but nothing particularly novel either. 6/10