"Breathless #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Black Mask Studios
Written by Pat Shand
Illustrated by Renzo Rodriguez
Colored by Mara Jayne Carpenter
2018, 36 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on March 28th, 2018
Scout has a strange job. She's a cryptozoologist, cataloging supernatural creatures for science for a company called Sweet Hollow Laboratories. When cutting into a hisser (picture an alien, bug-like creature), a bizarre substance is sprayed into her lungs, apparently curing her asthma. This gets the attention of Kenilworth Pharmaceuticals, a big pharma company who sicks their own monsters on the lab to try to squash this cure before it reaches the outside world.
Discounting for a moment that the larger details about Kenilworth are only gleaned from the solicitation information for Breathless #1 and not from the book itself, the comic works as a great introduction. Writer Pat Shand has a talent for creating super awesome, badass female characters and Scout is no different. She's full of sass and attitude and dripping with cool. Scout is in an underdog position due to her place at the Lab and her asthma. She has an opportunity to stick it to The Man, but she has to get out of this situation alive first.
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The sequence where Scout's asthma is cured is particularly well done. It shows shots of her lungs as the substance invades and attaches itself to them, then bounces between images of Scout shocked in the present and her having asthma attacks in the past. Much of this is presented without dialogue, yet the point comes across perfectly.
At Scout's side is a ditzy, yet intelligent aide named Grace-Eisley. She adds some nice comic relief to Breathless and grounds Scout a bit. They're fiercely loyal to one another, even after Grace-Eisley makes some especially dumb moves. It's easy to forgive her because she's such a bubbly, fun character. She also contrasts nicely with the horrifying monsters on display. I also like that everyone seems to understand that her name is a little on the pretentious side.
Speaking of the monsters, holy crap, does artist Renzo Rodriguez draw some awesome ones in Breathless. There's a nice variety at work, such as the aforementioned hisser, plus a succubus and more. There's an intricate amount of detail to Rodriguez's pencils that shows every little facet of these cryptids. The more you look at them, the more horrific they become. The creature that shows up at the end has these crazy muscular textures on its tongue that just creep me out. None of them look alike either.
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The bloodbath that ensues as a result of this monster hit squad is off the charts. The final few pages, showing what these things are capable of, are shocking. You can tell that something's up but to see the sheer carnage is something else. It's definitely not what I was expecting when Scout arrived. There's blood everywhere. Colorist Mara Jayne Carpenter must have worked overtime to get all the splatter in.
Although the full story is still taking shape, there's more than enough in Breathless #1 to pull you in. The characters are well developed and the artwork is incredible. Shand does a brilliant job of dropping you into this world and quickly establishing the rules around it. This is a horror comic to watch.