Despite having an interesting lead character, a whole lot of weird, and some jarring violence, the first issue of Beyond the Breach didn’t instantly sell the book as anything more than your average, vaguely Lovecraftian horror book. Lovecraft Lite is a whole, overpopulated subgenre of comics as it is, so it takes a bit more than big, unknowable monsters to grab a reader’s attention.
Indeed, the slithery, otherworldly threats of Beyond the Breach, despite Damian Couceiro’s frightening, jagged illustrations, are not the most distinctive or intriguing part of his work. Instead, it’s the solid world in which he applies those monstrosities, and the jarring juxtaposition thereof, that cements the visual presence of the book as top-notch. In issue #2, Couceiro gets to apply the juxtaposition even more heavily — and go in some surprising new directions.
This is because Ed Brisson and Couceiro find something new in issue #2, or at least a second aspect of the book that presents a nice pairing: a sort of weird fantasy, primarily with the introduction of a wizened old man and his giant tortoise buddy. The duo, delightfully odd but also a little bit dark and gross, end up pulling us in a much different direction from the gory, rip-and-tear violence of issue one.
It isn’t just Samuel and Turtle’s introduction that brings the book an added dimension, but a further presentation of a central concept: this isn’t a standard monster-invasion story, but a meeting of two very different worlds, a la The Mist (hence, of course, the breach). While the monstrous population mirrors the horror of that story, our secondary cast is weird enough to have tumbled out of a forgotten acid-drenched Ralph Bashki film. This striking dichotomy of tones manages not to clash, but to overlap in a surprisingly natural way — the whimsy of a big tortoise-riding wizard manages not to refute the dramatic violence and human loss inherent to this meeting of realities.
It opens up the potential for the book, one in which the contemporary world and its average human players aren’t simply being hunted by hungry beasts, but which must come up against a horrifying, dangerous new weird fantasy ecosystem, one that is not mixing well with that of the local. While our reality sees the destruction of airplanes, the wiping out of vast swaths of people, and the decimation of small towns, Samuel (and the other crossed-over dwellers of that other world) must likewise experience a new, unknown world.
Vanessa, our POV character, struggles to understand what is happening in a way, it’s implied, that Samuel might be — however knowledgeable he is about the hideous leeches and house-sized child-eaters, he is in no way equipped to understand the violent, post-incursion world of Earth. Any survival knowledge the man may have about his own landscape might very well be hampered by any number of earthly realities by simply being completely foreign to him.
The addition of new characters — and the introduction of a final-page villain — compounds our conflicts and opens avenues for a much more dynamic and engaging narrative than the “scary things eat people” setup, and finishes the hook cast by that first issue. Issue #2 doesn’t do much more than round out the setting and supply a cliffhanger, but it does those things with a haphazard elegance. Aftershock continues to crank out surprise after surprise by stellar talents, known and unknown, but Beyond the Breach is definitely one of the ones that has made its way to my monthly pull-list.
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