Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Damian Couceiro
Colorist: Patricio Delpeche
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A science-fiction adventure about a woman on a road trip, crashing into a strange new reality packed with grotesque monsters with an appetite for humans.
Beyond the Breach is a dark adventure akin to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom where there's the expected action and humor, but you're also exposed to some nightmarish imagery that'll stay with you.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Soon after a tumultuous breakup with her ex-boyfriend, Vanessa goes on an impromptu road trip to clear her head. What starts as a simple road trip quickly goes off the rails as the area around her explodes with an unusual aura, sending her car into a nearby tree and totaling it. When she comes to, she discovers the woodlands of California are teeming with nightmarish creatures with an insatiable hunger for humans.
In the ensuing dash for survival, she rescues Dougie, a newly orphaned boy, and Kai, an anthropomorphic warrior at odds with the other monsters. Together, they must trek through this new reality in the hopes they can find a way home. Can the trio survive the journey? And even if they do, what horrors wait for them on the other side?
Ed Brisson balances suspense, humor, and quiet character moments effectively with Vanessa being the story's highlight. She's clearly in over her head and watching her struggle to piece together her situation when she's not even in the headspace to deal with her own problems makes for a protagonist that's easy to root for.
Damian Couceiro's monster designs are instantly memorable. They're so repulsive, the book toes the line between being an adventure and a horror comic, with their introduction making the rest of the issue an edge-of-your-seat read.
Patricio Delpeche's moody color scheme is fantastic in a horror setting with praise especially for how he handled the transition from an everyday setting to a warped version of our reality. The sudden change, mid-page, to a black, purple, white, and yellow color scheme immediately jolts the readers into feeling the change in surroundings alongside Vanessa.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou's lettering has so much character to it where you can feel Vanessa's emotional state purely from the design of a word balloon and font choice. Also, the way he chose the portray a monster's dialogue with red lines squiggling through the black font and repeating certain letters in a sentence was such an eerie touch.
Beyond the Breach is a brisk read, establishing just enough normalcy to set up Sarah's journey before ripping it away and dropping us into a frantic chase that allows the art to sell this twisted world before finally slowing down to allow Vanessa and Dougie to bond.
Couceiro's layouts are wonderfully economical during the shift in reality. There's a clear flow to each panel, emphasizing small reaction shots in the middle of action beats which perfectly sell the tension. The fact he's able to fit those moments into seven or eight-panel pages without sacrificing the flow of the page is a commendable feat.
Issue one's cliffhanger ending is a creepy note to wrap things up on, giving you plenty of incentive to see where things go from here.
The road map bonus content detailing Vanessa's trip is a wonderful piece of character building and a creative way to add value to the single issue.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: This story contains moments of intense violence and foul language.
The opening sequence setting up Vanessa's journey was really over the top. The combination of Brisson's choice of swear words and the scenario of Vanessa's sister sleeping with her boyfriend while their mother is dying of cancer felt like overkill.
Dougie's introduction was a rough section to read. It's tough writing kids in fiction, especially when they're put into tense situations. Even though it is understandable for Dougie to be terrified of the monsters, his dialogue comes across more as annoying rather than ratcheting up the tension.
There's a layout choice in one of the opening pages which forces the word balloons to be read from right to left for one panel while the rest of the page is read from the standard left to right.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Beyond the Breach is an adventure comic that isn't afraid to induce nightmares with its grisly monster designs and gory kills, fitting comfortably into the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom school of adventure. Ed Brisson's premise of a road trip from hell could easily have been a straight-up horror story, but using the monsters more for suspense and adding some levity in just the right spots turns the premise into an entertaining opening chapter of a larger story.
While the introductions of Vanessa and Dougie's characters were awkward, both characters grow on you, with Vanessa proving to be a strong fish-out-of-water lead in a strange new world. If you're in the mood for a dark adventure story with a side of horror, then Beyond the Breach has you covered.
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All Aftershock Comics characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Ed Brisson, Damian Couceiro, and Aftershock Comics, 2021 or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED