by Cullen Bunn, Brian Churilla and Dave Stewart
New from Oni Press, Hellbreak #1 is a really curious new series that introduces a slick and smooth talking suit as he explains the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. The man claims to be part of the Kerberos Initiative, and the story at play in issue one finds a natural blend in the way it both introducing readers to the world and presenting a single-issue story.
The cover of Hellbreak #1 is one that certainly evokes certain expectations from readers, and while they are present in some ways, the story inside has a good bit more going on. The Kerberos Initiative appears to involve an operation located within a religious environment, though Marik Procter makes an effort to establish a difference between the setting and his business. Cullen Bunn slow plays the reveal in the first chapter as to just what exactly is going on, but at the mention of “tethers” the story begins to really pick up speed. The first issue manages to introduce a number of the cast as well as the general environment in which the series will exist. Bunn sets up a world that deals with the demonic, but does so in a way that is quite unique. The members of the Kerberos Initiative are somewhat of a military unit, infiltrating the underworld to run rescue missions for those who have been possessed.
Not only does Hellbreak manage to be compelling in its pacing and originality, but Bunn also places many intriguing teases and threads throughout the issue. In some small moments, he is able to layer in some grand ideas that look to play a role as the story develops. Along with well-made storytelling, Bunn is complimented by quality art from Brian Churilla and Dave Stewart. Churilla’s pencils and Stewart’s colors combine to create a world that is a bit unexpected for the context of the story itself. While some of the staple style of Stewart is present, there is range in his color palette and a few moments in the issue that certainly feel different. In addition, Churilla makes some interesting decisions in this issue. From some choice perspectives to the designs of Necropolis and the beings that populate it, Churilla certainly does a great job with the visual world building of Hellbreak. While the panel layouts and pacing hold closer to conventional, the rendering of the creatures in this underworld location is anything but and, in fact, incredibly terrifying.
Hellbreak #1 is a fun and well-crafted first issue that takes a very different approach to a story about possessed individuals. The fusion of a military faction running rescue missions with the underworld makes for a solid read. At times, the action scenes do feel a bit stunted in their use of streak-color backgrounds in place of the environment. However, the overall production of the issue and inclusion of a number of threads to establish the larger scope of the series all combine for a satisfying opening issue.