Some still remember Guts as the courageous leader of the Band of the Hawk's Raiders. But more know him now as the Black Swordsman, a marked man hacking and slashing his way across Midland. Who has marked him for death? That would be the God Hand, beings whose power is exceeded only by their evil. Why does he not let them take him? The answer to that question is simple: One of the God Hand, once Guts' friend, betrayed him and the rest of the Hawks--and as long as this former friend Griffith lives, Guts will not be the one to expire first.
In this volume, the demonic Kushan emperor has assumed a horrific new gargantuan form and is wreaking untold death and destruction upon Midland. Only Griffith and his reformed Band of the Hawk have a prayer of stopping this marauder in its tracks, and only if they reveal their true monstrous Apostle forms. Their erstwhile human allies, though, faced with their own destruction, do not recoil as they normally would away from these abominations that seem to be defending their lives. But little do they know that this war will conclude with the very fabric of reality transformed...perhaps forever.
Berserk is manga artist Kentaro Miura's magnum opus, and it has been serialized since 1990 and is still going strong. Unlike virtually all other commercially successful manga artists, Miura produces his artwork without assistants, and the exquisite detail of this erotic-grotesque, Dungeons & Dragons-esque high fantasy issues from his hand and his hand alone. This visual unity makes for a unique reading experience that is not replicated in any other seinen manga series currently available in English translation--and it is one that appeals to men and women alike.
Volume 34 is an especially important volume, as it brings the "Falcon of the Millennium Empire" arc to its climax and brings the Dark Horse/Digital Manga Publishing US edition of Berserk nearly up to date with the Japanese release schedule. It is, in every respect, a truly epic installment, and the battle between the Kushan emperor and those who follow Griffith takes up most of the space. It is, hands down, a visual tour de force, completely wordless for pages at a time to maximize affective impact. A series of gorgeous two-page spreads are a particular treat--and the illusory images of four members of the God Hand toward the end of the volume are simply unforgettable.
In fact, the ostensible protagonist of the story and his rag-tag band of loyal outcasts appear only briefly on their way to a literal Magic Kingdom where, it is hoped, some of the wrong which Griffith once committed against those who trusted him might be righted. Suffice it to say that Berserk takes very seriously its condemnation of cruelty and violence, and unlike scores of other popular manga series, cruelty toward women is never a laughing matter. This volume is, in short, an exciting time, both for Guts and for this title's loyal fans. Highest recommendation.
-- Casey Brienza