By Svetlana Fedotov
The concept of Hell has been around for as long as humans have needed a reason to punish each other. Ancient Egypt had a lake of fire, the Greek had Hades, and we, in the more modern times, have the Christian Hell of eternal suffering and even a Buddhist Hell called The Realm of Naraka. While many of these religions may not agree on a lot of things, they can all agree that Hell sucks major balls and anyone one of these would be awful way to spend eternity. Hellbreak, on the other hand, takes that concept and turns it up a thousand fold. You see, in there world, there are thousands of Hells and they’re ALL terrible. With each territory run by gangs and only so many human souls to devour, it’s not uncommon to find a rogue demon dragging humans down who are still alive and that’s when the Orpheus team comes in. Hellbreak takes the classic tale of a team of highly trained operatives fighting magical creatures and instead of waiting for the action to come to Earth, sends the action down to Hell.
So, the entire comic basically reads as set up for the arc, like an issue 0, instead of the beginning of a story, but I will give you breakdown anyway. Essentially, this is the issue where we get introduced to the Orpheus team and how they go about their business. As a worried family is reassured that their possessed son will (maybe, possibly not) be rescued from the confines of Hell, the highly skilled Orpheus team invades one of Hell’s many domains, this one known as Necropolis. They drop in unannounced into the middle of a masquerade party attended by the most gruesome monsters in the industry and quickly have to run against time before their rescue is devoured by demons. I’m not going to tell you if they make it, but there is a second issue coming out.
To be fair, the only thing that’s really keeping me interested in the comic is the premise. I’m digging the idea of multiple Hells with roaming gangs of demons as far as they eye can see. The designs of the demons are pretty on point as well thanks to the artist Brian Churilla, as well as the art itself. He creates a fun cartoony vibe and adds a touch of realism, reflecting Oni Press’s stance to have fun with comics. But aside from those two things, I’m not too impressed. Maybe it’s because the first issue decided to focus on a random opening story versus actually establishing an arc, but I didn’t feel like there was much to grab on to to push me into the second issue. It’s one of those things that would’ve worked well in graphic novel form, but as a stand-alone issue, it’s kind of boring.
Also the characters kind of blended in and the ones that stuck out were pretty by-the-books standards. You have the tough chick, the bald black guy, a guy with a dark secret, and so on and it feels like it’s all stuff you’ve read before. Not to mention, a tough talking supernatural team has been done a million times before and this isn’t much of a change of pace. As much as I love Cullen Bunn, like I said, I feel like the concept was all he really had in mind and the character and story development fell by the wayside. But, does that mean the second issue is not worth picking up? Personally, I’d grab it. A thousand Hells means a thousand stories and I know that Bunn has the creativity to explore all of them. I want to see where this goes.