Writer: Zack Kaplan
Illustrator: Wilton Santos
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A group of teens plan a prison break from a floating space prison in this science fiction adventure miniseries.
Break Out is a teenage Ocean's Eleven story mixed with the sci-fi heist elements in Skylin3s (2020).
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
One day, massive floating Cube spaceships materialize in the sky and begin sending out drones at random intervals to abduct 36 humans ages 11 through 20-years old. The world erupts into a panic -- for a while. After failed attempts to destroy the cubes and rescue its young prisoners, the adults decide the best course of action is to set a curfew and return to "normal" life.
Teenager Tommy Watt, already grieving over the loss of his dad, takes it upon himself to create a rescue mission when his own brother Liam is abducted by the spaceships. His mother urges him to move on, but for Tommy, he can never look at life the same way again. Liam assembles a group of students from his high school with a few goals in mind: He wants to break out his younger brother and destroy the cosmic Cubes once and for all.
Can Liam and his new friends stage the ultimate prison break? Will a rogue government agent unhappy with the state of things lend them the tools they need to get into the mile-wide interdimensional floating prison in the sky?
Zack Kaplan somehow juggles multiple comic projects simultaneously, yet never lets his writing quality dip or feel repetitive. Kaplan boldly draws comparisons to present-day topical strife in Break Out while putting an original spin on the classic heist genre.
Simply put, Kaplan accomplishes what good sci-fi stories set out to do with action-oriented political commentary on how we can better the current state of the world.
Illustrator Wilton Santos takes a modern approach to his artistry. His linework is smooth and even, giving the characters a realistic look while adding his own stylistic flair to their faces.
Where Santos' art goes from pristine and pleasant to jaw-dropping is his rendering of the Cube and its eerie human-esque alien inhabitants.
Jason Wordie delivers deep, tonal colors to this reality simmering in melancholy. Wordie's ombre blending makes the shadows distinct and adds a watercolor appearance to the stunning landscape/space backgrounds.
Pro letterer Jim Campbell pulls out all the stops to let the words breathe on the page. Campell works to establish clarity, stacking multiple speech bubbles, adding long tails to signify a character speaking off screen without interfering with the art, and choosing a rounded typeface denoting the youthfulness of its primarily teen speakers.
In a comic shaded mostly in hues of dark blues with green tints, the occasional red dousing the panels when anything Cube-related enters the scene evokes an alarming, otherworldly eeriness.
The overarching theme in Break Out -- breaking out of expectations, normalcy, and the heist break out scheme -- translates to its art and design choices as well. The artists aren't afraid to use extra lines to orient or disorient readers' sense of direction, especially in the issue #2 splash pages breaking down the multi-step plan to breach the spaceship.
Angled panels suggest the idea of the floating ship rocking in the air in a series of high-concept compositions in the second issue. The way the dialogue lays out the plan simply in layman's terms for the readers while the art takes risks in layout sequences pays off in terms of visual ingenuity.
There's so much to enjoy here, whether its the gradient and stippling illustrative techniques, the exquisite climax in the second issue during a lightning storm, or the characters who speak their fears from their heart, Break Out is a technically impressive sci-fi comics entry.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Though these are only the first two issues, I'm hoping to see the other likeably teen characters in Liam's group rounded out further. This is only a four-issue miniseries, so we only have two more issues to learn more about the cast of characters beyond their specific skill sets benefiting the break-out mission.
The alternating gutter space widths on single pages prove somewhat distracting at times. In some cases, hardly any gutter space at all separates a great number of panels on one page (which isn't necessarily a negative thing every time). Still, there are pages where the action gets a bit lost in the panel layouts.
Content Warning: Break Out is a pretty heavy read, considering the relevancy of its topics in conjunction with uncaring pandemic attitudes and kids being abducted/taken from their families. One should approach this comic with caution if the correlations to reality feel too much to handle mentally right now.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
If you feel pessimistic about the state of the world right now -- from the ongoing pandemic people are trying to "forget" about to global climate change to gun violence in schools with young children -- you're not alone. At the same time I gave a warning above about the topical nature of Break Out, I have to applaud its creators for broaching these subjects with sincerity and measured nuance. Sci-fi stories historically serve dual purposes: They offer exciting escapism while commenting on polarizing geopolitical, cultural, or global present-day issues threatening the future of human existence.
Break Out centers its narrative on these very real and very scary themes through the eyes of those who will have to suffer the repercussions of the present in the future: Teenagers. And which generation wants to break out from the parameters defining "normalcy?" Young people.
With Break Out, we have a group of young people who want to reject the destiny adults have set out for them to follow. They want to find solutions and literally break out of the box. A sci-fi heist story illustrated with a bold stylized realism look, Break Out delivers an essential glimmer of hope in these demoralizing times.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Mindset #1 by Zack Kaplan &
Join the Future by Zack Kaplan & Piotr Kowalski
Hollow Heart by Paul Allor & Paul Tucker
If you like the art:
Resonant by David Andry & Skylar Partridge
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra Vol. 6 by Simon Spurrier & Wilton Santos
Maestro: War and Pax by Peter David, Wilton Santos, Javier Pina, & Oren Junior
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Zack Kaplan – Writer (@zackkaps)
On the Rise: Kaplan has made a name for himself in the comic scene with his science fiction comics and graphic novels.
Some of his works include Eclipse, Port of Earth, The Lost City Explorers, Join the Future, Metal Society, and his upcoming horror sci-fi series from Vault Comics, Mindset.
Kaplan currently lives in Los Angeles, California and has worked for Image Comics/Top Cow, Dark Horse Comics, Aftershock Comics, Vault Comics, Humanoids, Scout Comics and DC Comic.
Wilton Santos – Illustrator (@wiltonarts)
Wilton Stantos first made his debut in the comic scene in 2011.
He has worked as a penciler for Marvel Comics and Dark Horse Comics.
Outlander: Santos hails from Brasil.
Jason Wordie – Colorist (@WordieJason)
Jason Wordie is a comic book colorist whose recognizable color palletes can be seen in comics published by Image, DC, Vault, Dark Horse, AfterShock and Scout Comics.
He has colored comics such as the upcoming Agent of W.O.R.L.D.E. and The Vineyard, as well as the Rogues and Kaya comics.
Outlander: Wordie hails from Canada.
Jim Campbell – Letterer (@CampbellLetters)
Outlander: Hails from the United Kingdom.
Multitalented: Also enjoys the art side of the creative world.
Prolific: Has done lettering for a large number of hit titles.
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All Break Out characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Zack Kaplan or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED