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The main cover for BZRKR issue #1 shows Keanu festooned with sharp objects, stoically walking through a cloud of red smoke... or blood. Could be blood. Image: Rafael Grampá/Boom Studios

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Keanu Reeves made an ultra-violent comic starring his immortal murder avatar

The Old Guard meets Blackhawk Down

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

In the opening pages of BRZRKR issue #1, Keanu Reeves punches a man so hard that his head explodes, leaving his right eye lolling out of the frame. Just a few pages later, his own body riddled with bullet holes, Keanu breaks off a chunk of another man’s ribcage and proceeds to stab him — and everyone else in the room — to death with it. When the offending bone shard dulls, he clubs a third man to death with his own arm.

This new 12-issue series from Boom Studios kicks off with some of the most harrowing violence that I’ve ever seen in a comic. But it pays off, opening the window into the mind of a fascinating character with mysterious powers and an even more mysterious backstory. It’s like characters from The Old Guard just showed up in the middle of Blackhawk Down, and I absolutely want to know more.

Who is making BZRKR?

Actor Keanu Reeves, fresh off his role in Cyberpunk 2077, is the headliner here. He’s been involved in the creation of this comic since the start, and featured prominently in the crowdfunding campaign that helped bring it to life. Backers chipped in more than $1.4 million in October, and another $400,000 since then.

Joining Reeves as co-writer is Eisner-award nominee Matt Kindt, with art by Ron Garney. Both share credits on Justice League of America and Spider-Man, among others. Coloring is handled by Bill Crabtree.

Sad Keanu on a bench in the rain. Image: Matt Kindt and Ron Garney/Boom Studios

What is BZRKR about?

BZRKR is a story about a living weapon currently in the employment of the United States military who looks an awful lot like Keanu Reeves. With his long black hair flowing, the titular berserker leaps from hovering helicopters, absorbs punishing fusillades of small arms fire, and beats soldiers to death with his bare hands.

But he also feels really bad about it.

Virtually every page of this 44-page first issue is covered in blood, and the deaths that I mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. If there were to be a movie adaptation, I think it would be hard to do it justice with anything other than claymation. Bodies don’t crumple so much as they froth, their soupy innards turning into a cartoonish spray. Keanu’s fists are like the widget inside a can of Guinness beer, but for intestines.

Is BZRKR good?

The violence is ridiculous, but it is also artfully executed. Combined with the narrative overlay, this first issue as a whole is excellent.

There is a mounting sense of unease throughout this first issue as an unnamed voice interrogates the berserker. Eventually, we learn that it’s the voice of his government-issued therapist. She’s not just there to ensure that this taxpayer investment is ready to go for its next deployment. She’s carefully, relentlessly probing deeper, trying to uncover who — and what — the berserker truly is. That’s the part that I really look forward to seeing, and what will be required to differentiate this character from just another Punisher or Wolverine wannabe.

As far as origin stories go, issue #1 is clearly just the wind-up, but it’s got pretty great form. The pitch comes later on over the next few issues.

One panel that popped

My very favorite panel is the last, which keys up issue #2. I won’t spoil it for you here. Instead, here’s the berserker leaping into action.

Keanu walks out of a helicopter. Image: Matt Kindt and Ron Garney/Boom Studios
Keanu falling. His eyes are blue, his hands wrapped in tape. Image: Matt Kindt and Ron Garney/Boom Studios