The first time I ever read anything by Cullen Bunn it was The Damned from Oni Press. The second time I read anything from Cullen Bunn was The Damned: Prodigal Sons and then The Sixth Gun. Hang tight I’m going somewhere with this. Since then Bunn has gone on to write a lot of comics for the big two and everyone in-between, but the place that he always feels most at home is Oni Press. I don’t know why the two click so well together, but I’m always down to check out a new series of his from Oni, so when given the chance to check out Hellbreak his new series with artist Brian Churilla I couldn’t turn it down. I also couldn’t put it down.
The comic begins with the story of Orpheus and Eurydice which is the best way to start a story about people breaking other people out of hell. That’s right, that’s what this series is about. I mean it’s right there in the title: Hellbreak.
After the story recap we meet the person telling the story Marik Proctor. He’s telling a husband and wife and eventually we learn why… their son is possessed and they’ve hired Proctor’s team to get their son back, but the possession isn’t just an exorcism… it’s a hellbreak! Seriously I love that name. From there the story ventures into hell and we meet the members of the team one by one as they try to save the man’s soul.
I know that sounds really straight forward, but let’s not forget the landscape… hell. Frankly if there’s one person you’d want to illustrate this it’s Churilla who is another Oni vet with his work on The Secret History of D.B. Cooper. Cooper may not have been in hell, but the character designs were strange and fucked up making him the perfect choice to craft the landscape of hell. Of course the landscape will likely change next time as the book implies through the dialogue.
This time around though Churilla takes a Victorian Eyes Wide Shut party and makes it… well he makes it exactly that a Victorian Eyes Wide Shut party in hell. It’s visually amazing and rendered beautifully with Dave Stewarts colors. The two team up to give an eerie visual to the tale, but Stewart gives it a distinct look by not mimicking what he does on the Mignolaverse. Instead it’s this bright and creepy hell that gives the impression of the walls closing in on you. How anyone could venture into hell and not be in a total panic is just beyond me.
As for the writing, it’s some of Bunn’s best. I will fully admit that I haven’t gotten into any of his Marvel or DC stuff. I’ve tired, I really have, but it’s just not for me. Hellbreak feels like a Bunn book whereas his work for hire stuff doesn’t quite ring true to his writing voice. Something he does very well here is introduce the team. Sure I don’t really know everyone’s character, but I got just enough from their introductions which are staggered throughout the issue. Just when I thought I met the entire team there would be someone else and I honestly liked that. It’s boring when team books all follow what’s become the standard format for introductions.
Hellbreak is a little transparent in what it’s going to do, but it’s so well executed that I want to stick around and read more. In fact I wanted more the minute I was done reading and that’s saying a lot considering how many other books dip into hell for story angles. This story was refreshing and honestly reminded me of why I read comics… they’re fucking fantastic.
Writer: Cullen Bunn Artist: Brian Churilla Publisher: Oni Press Price: $1.00 (Yeah you can afford that so no excuses) Release Date: 3/11/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital