BY MATT TUCK
John Wick meets The Old Guard in Keanu Reeves’ first foray into comics, which leaned heavily on star power, shock and awe. While the core story has the foundation for a good series, it is territory Wolverine marked for his own decades ago.
Written by Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt
Art by Ron Garney
If BRZRKR stops being Keanu Reeves fan fiction, this could be a much better series.
Honestly, Reeves’ star power alone sold plenty of copies of BRZRKR #1 thanks to his immense popularity and name recognition. BRZRKR takes full advantage of that drawing potential to a nauseating fault.
There’s no telling how much money it took for Boom! Studios to attach the A-lister’s name and likeness to the project, and we are reminded in virtually every panel that, yes, this is Keanu’s comic. It becomes so redundant that it kept me from fully escaping into the story. Even the first page has a panel of our protagonist striking the “sad Keanu” pose on a park bench.
The comic shoves Reeves’ face onto the reader so unabashedly that I forgot that this was a character separate from the star himself; it became too easy to think of the protagonist as Keanu Reeves rather than an independent comic book character.
I would hope that going forward the constant reminders that this is a Keanu Reeves comic will lessen. After all, we can assume that anyone who bought BRZRKR doesn’t need the star’s presence in the comic being pointed out in Every. Single. Page.
Taking its name from the mythical Norse berserkers, with their mythic shape shifting and ferocity, the story embraces its title and gives us an “eternal warrior” story that is intense and brutal from the beginning. The first issue flows like the high-octane opening of a James Bond movie, with explosions and face-pounding action. The entire story has a cinematic quality that is assuredly the intent.
As far as the story, it was an entertaining and fast-paced read. Amidst the overt violence and gore that felt torn from a Quentin Tarantino film, there is a narrative of an immortal soldier fighting as much with his repressed memories as he is with the generic enemy combatants. Reeves and Kindt borrowed liberally from Chris Claremont’s Wolverine stories, complete with amnesia and a healing factor.
Granted, this was only the first issue, and there is so much story left to tell, but in this opening tale, the comic relies too heavily on the Wolverine tropes. Here’s hoping that Keanu doesn’t venture to Japan in a quest for redemption against a super-powered samurai.
All that being said, John Wick fans will adore this comic, and it feels completely written for that base. Looking at this from a business perspective, that makes sense considering the franchise’s popularity rejuvenated Reeves’ career. Going forward, I want this series to find its own voice, and for the love of all that is good and holy, stop reminding me that Keanu Reeves is starring in this comic.
From a collecting standpoint, this issue will grow in value. I am not aware of the print run numbers, but I would imagine Boom published a large number based on the hype surrounding the project from day one. This will inevitably become a live-action movie, and that will contribute to its long-term investment potential.
All in all, it was an enjoyable though rather unoriginal read, but I had enough fun that I will come back for another issue.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.