Review - Breathless #1 (@BlackMaskStudio)

"I feel great."

Advancements in medical research are often hailed as breakthroughs when they can help a significant portion of the population. The problem with said breakthroughs is that most of the time they're bankrolled by the private sector in a quest to find the next billion dollar drug. Breathless #1 from Black Mask Studio seems to focus on a breakthrough that's a lot more sinister. The issue is written by Pat Shand, illustrated by Renzo Rodriguez, colored by Mara Jayne Carpenter and lettered by Jim Campbell.

Scout Turner works as a cryptozoologist, examining and cataloguing supernatural creatures for scientific purposes. When she discovers the cure for asthma in the venom of a new breed of monster, she quickly finds herself on the run from Kenilworth Pharmaceuticals and the monsters that they've hired to kill her. With no one by her side but her clueless assistant, a morally ambiguous succubus, and her geriatric dog, Scout goes on the run... but in a world controlled by money and drugs, can she escape the reaching claws of a medical monopoly?

Shand's approach in Breathless #1 is one of science-fiction tinged with disdain for the pharmaceutical industry. Scout is the vehicle for the narrative and her character is pretty central to the crux of the series, but Shand doesn't really define what exactly her role is. She's pitched as something of a cryptozoologist, but there are also instances where you'd believe she was a cop with informants, a fast-talking individual and a granddaughter with a heart of gold. That's not to say that Shand characterizes her poorly; rather, it almost feels as if she's too many thing at once. The story around her seems to rely mostly on her doctoral profession and it's likely that Shand will further flesh out the universe in the book to give the readers insights into why Scout has to do what she does (and why she consults a succubus for information).

Rodriguez does a clean job on the artwork, rendering each of the characters with relatively light lines. Each of the characters have very distinct appearances that blend well with one another, even if some of the characters are posed in ways that don't feel natural. For instance, a lot of the characters are drawn with their hands raised for emphasis on what they're saying, but the frequency of the gesture feels a little odd. The creatures that Scout studies are illustrated by Rodriguez with an intensity that lets the reader know they're not friendly. Carpenter's colors pop with vibrancy--the bloodsplatter from the creature violence for instance definitely sets the scene for their ferocity.

Breathless #1 seems--on its surface--as another creature horror book. Scout lives in a world where she's forced to contend with the unknown on a daily basis and that unknown has a tendency to get very dismembery. Shand's story unfolds somewhat hurriedly in the first issue, although there's likely going to be a much bigger universe coming into play that pins a lot of the violence on the pharmaceutical industry. The illustrations by Rodriguez are pretty clean and easy to follow, effectively capturing the essence of the tale. Breathless #1 is a good start to a new series.

Breathless #1 is available March 28.