by Cullen Bunn, Brian Churilla and Dave Stewart
The first issue of Hellbreak was interesting, although a bit difficult to follow. In an attempt to throw readers into the world and introduce them to the general elements that the creators were playing with, the focus and world building were a bit challenging. However, the idea was unique and there was a clear sense of intrigue surrounding the brand new series. Here, in issue two, Bunn and Churilla bring readers a story that not only improves on the world building of the first issue, but displays the quality of talent that is behind the new series. Hellbreak #2 features a classic set up with fantastic writing and art that really builds momentum.
Who does not love a story about exorcism? What if that story of exorcism goes beyond the room with the demon, but travels deep into the underworld in search of the soul that was replaced? That is what the Kerberos Project seeks to do. While the players and goals of the characters were a bit opaque in Hellbreak #1, this second issue opens with a bit of a recap. In doing so, the story is able to dive into its second chapter with a more defined establishment of the universe. Bunn has presented the reader with a universe where there are an unknowable number of hells and creatures. He then fuses those elements of religion and demonic possession with tactical missions led by operatives who are able to infiltrate this worlds. It is an incredibly interesting concept and one that really comes together here in issue two.
Father Gabriel Lloyd stands in the room with the body of Javier Romero. Mr. Romero is not dead, or at least not in the conventional sense of the word. Instead, his body is now the host to something horrifying. The priest waits patiently in the room, taking the berating of the terrible creature as he attempts to maintain composure. Bunn does an excellent job capturing the tension and terror that were conveyed in The Exorcist, but with his own voice. Readers will feel just how vile this creature is, and it could almost be the only setting for the issue. The capability that Bunn showcases in his balance between the two characters and their exchanges manages to be so engaging that readers might not even remember that the story also involves The Kerberos Project. What is noticeable in this second issue is how well Bunn develops his characters. Choices for bits of dialogue that hint at greater elements of personality, history and desire for these individuals are dropped throughout the second issue of Hellbreak. In conjunction with the defined world building that takes place, this issue establishes a lot of the foundation for the series.
Brian Churilla and Dave Stewart make for an excellent art team. The sequential story telling that is on display in the sequence within Mr. Romero’s room showcase the art team’s strengths, capturing the attention of the reader. The artists on the series are challenged by the very premise of there being countless hells and all number of devilish beings within them. However, the physicality that Churilla captures in each of the characters in this issue can convey so much. With the bits that are offered through Bunn’s dialogue, Churilla and Stewart make up the rest to truly provide so much to the readers in the way of character development without ever slowing the story down. Once the team moves into the underworld, the story really layers on a level of discomfort and suspense. The universe that the entire creative team is building in this series is exciting and readers have to be pleased with what has already come.
It was unclear through the first portion of this second issue as to whether or not the creators were looking to treat each issue as its own singular story. As many series have chosen to do in the past, that approach would tackle the idea that there are a number of different hells, presenting readers with a different one each time. However, as the story sits with Mr. Romero longer than expected, Bunn changes the pace a bit, having this second encounter take the story into the next issue. As Hellbreak is still rather young, it remains to be seen just what grander story is being told. However, with fantastic artistic talent and the quality writing that was on display in this second issue, readers will be entertained thoroughly with these missions until the story grows into something even larger.