Whoa! Check out an exclusive look at Keanu Reeves' action-packed first comic book, 'BRZRKR'
by Brian Truitt
Keanu Reeves' resume contains an assortment of iconic roles over his years as an A-list movie star, but he's breaking new ground with his latest job: comic-book writer.
Reeves strikes a humble note when talking about his creation, the upcoming 12-issue limited series “BRZRKR" (Boom! Studios, out monthly beginning Oct. 7). “I guess I'm in the writing room,” he tells USA TODAY. While in Berlin for “Matrix 4” rehearsals prior to filming resuming on the anticipated sequel, Reeves says he’s been “Skyping pretty regularly” with co-writer Matt Kindt. “We're excited about what's happening. The story's taking some really interesting twists and turns."
Illustrated by Alessandro Vitti, the action-packed and hyper-violent “BRZRKR” centers on a warrior who looks a lot like a certain beloved actor and has walked a blood-soaked path across the world for centuries. In present day, the Berzerker does dangerous jobs for the U.S. government in exchange for the truth about his existence.
Last year, Reeves met with Boom! about creating material for live-action vehicles, and he pitched them on “this character who was born 80,000 years ago, half man, his father's a war god. It's a little fantasy in reality,” Reeves says. “I had this image in my head of a guy fighting through the ages because of his father's compulsion to violence” but with the pathos of a man “trapped and trying to figure it out.”
Working with Reeves has been “immensely cool,” says Boom! editor-in-chief Matt Gagnon. “Spend five minutes with Keanu and it becomes clear very quickly why he’s earned all the success he has. Exceptional creative instincts, deep reservoirs of wisdom on story, the ability to consistently tap into the raw emotion of a moment, relentless commitment to quality and the task at hand – it’s all this and much more that make Keanu an inspiring force.”
Reeves brings creativity to “the action and the backstory of the characters," Kindt says, "and he's been open to me inserting my fascination for history, conspiracies and espionage into the mix along with a fragmented narrative structure.”
The Berzerker has battled through the ages in places of great war and conflict, yet even though he’s immortal in a way, “he has to also hide himself. So he'd pretend to die and then keep moving on,” Reeves says. When readers first meet him, he's "hiding" in the USA and has struck a bargain with authorities: ”It's like, ‘I’ll go do some missions for you and you'll help me figure out who I am and how this has come to be and how maybe I could get released from this.’ But then of course there's ulterior motives on both sides.”
Reeves’ character isn't just a stoic buttkicker: The Berzerker sports a good sense of humor, he’s a “warm guy” but “world-weary” because of his past. “He's seen a lot,” says Reeves, adding that the comic explores themes including “the nature of violence, morals, ethics (and) what side do you choose."
Berzerker’s origin story also digs into the fact that he has perfect memory and speaks a ton of languages. “We have hopefully some nice scenes where when they're looking at hieroglyphics, and he's like, ‘No, you got that wrong,'” Reeves says. “And there's things like, ‘Hey man, I wasn't everywhere. I'm just one guy.’ Part of the research that they’re doing on him is trying to download all of the knowledge that he has.”
As far as the ultraviolence goes, Reeves and Kindt share in the brutality. “It's like, ‘Yeah, I think it would be fun just to see him punch through someone's chest or pull out a rib or rip an arm off,’” Reeves says. The Berzerker “can heal to a certain extent, so it's fun to have these kinds of outrageous consequences and still have the character kind of moving forward.”
The guy drawing those fight scenes loves them, too: They “really gave me the sense that I was on a Hollywood movie set,” says Vitti, who rewatched Reeves’ “John Wick” movie trilogy “for research purposes and inspiration.”
Reeves, who'll be seen on screen next in "Bill & Ted Face the Music" (in theaters Aug. 28), recalls first getting into comics when he was 9 or 10. “You're going to camp so there's like ‘Richie Rich’ around and then you get a little older and your mom's boyfriend has ‘Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers’ and some alternative comics. You get into ‘Ghost Rider’ and you start reading Frank Miller’s 'Dark Knight’ and your mind is blown.
Back in the day, Reeves, 55, never harbored dreams of writing or drawing comics. “As a young kid, I was like, ‘Aw, man, I’d love to play Wolverine,’” he says. (Reminded that his fans would still love to see that as well, Reeves demurs with a soft “Nooo.”) Boom! does have a first-look deal with Netflix, however, so is Reeves down to add Bezerker to his pantheon alongside John Wick, Neo and Ted “Theodore” Logan?
“I’d love to play Berzerker!” Reeves says. “It's a really fun story so if it's not me, hopefully someone can play it.”