ADVANCE REVIEW: Hellbreak #1

Story: Cullen Bunn
Art: Brian Churilla
Colors: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Oni Press
Release Date: March 11, 2015

How far would you go to save a loved one? If you’re a member of the Kerberos Initiative, the answer is pretty simple: to Hell and back. Literally. In Cullen Bunn’s new book, we’ll get a front row seat to the action as a six-person special operations team conducts rescue missions into the underworld for missing souls.

Look, there has been absolutely no shortage of books with Hell as a main setting in the last 20 years. It’s a fascinating place to conceptualize and to write about. The trick then, is to compel readers to take an interest in your version of the Inferno. Bunn takes on the role of Dante expertly and while I can’t say that his take on Hell is original, at least in the first issue, it is captivating and worth exploring.

 

Hellbreak_Necropolis_1   Hellbreak_Necropolis_3

 

Essentially, this is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, a fact that is alluded to in no uncertain terms in the opening pages. Hellbreak expands and updates that myth, however, by throwing in a team of elite commandos to take on the role of Orpheus and random individuals as Eurydice.

This first issue is much more in line with Vertigo’s Lucifer than Hellcop or even Constantine. The Necropolis, the level of Hell explored here, is pretentious and baroque, and the team must infiltrate a masquerade ball of horrors to rescue a displaced soul. The depiction of a group of revelers devouring some unfortunate prisoner is unsettling, both by its sheer gruesome nature and its sudden placement. Hopefully, that jarring effect is something that will remain constant, if unpredictable in the way that it is accomplished, throughout the series’ development.

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Unlike The Activity, the focus here isn’t so much on technical expertise and realism, in terms of the operators, as it is on emotional attachment and action. That said, while I did enjoy the book overall, in future issues I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of a detailed approach regarding the team’s tactics and procedures. Minor preferences aside, this was a good opening issue and promises to be another hit for Bunn and Oni Press.

By: A.C.

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