Breaks Vol. 1 – a hard look at school life…


I have always found it hard to follow web comics. When it comes to comics, I’m pretty staunch at sticking to paper in hand (though that’s probably going to change if my collection gets any bigger) and the ones I had tried usually had trouble sticking to a regular schedule. But I made an exception for Breaks as it is by one of my favourite comic creators and it’s always been pretty bang on schedule. But I still prefer my comics in hand – which is now a moot point as the first arc is now available in print form courtesy of Soaring Penguin Press.

Cortland Hunt has made some dangerous mistakes. Now he’s waiting quietly for those mistakes to catch up with him. Ian Tanner coasts through life denying the spark of anger beneath his laid back exterior. When school politics and personal lives become a battleground, the pair find that what they share may just be their only safe haven.

I’ve been a fan of Emma Vieceli’s for a long time now since first encountering her work at a random MCM London Comic Con (2007ish) and again at my first London Book Fair in 2010. I always admired her work ethic and delicate art style that blends shojo manga with some European influences. She has a rather eclectic back catalogue of work that covers all walks of life including My Little Pony, Young Avengers, two titles under the Manga Shakespeare imprint, Alex Rider, Doctor Who and most recently Back To The Future. In the years I have been reading her work, it has been awesome to see the growth in her style and confidence in her artwork, and Breaks is easily one of her strongest artistic endeavours to date.

Vieceli’s style has always been most at home in a teen setting and this series very much plays to that strength. At times, the artwork looks like it would be right at home in a volume of Fruits Basket or The Wallflower. But for the most part Vieceli has adopted a rougher/scratchier approach to the characters which, given the more grounded story being told, is a great fit. This is a grittier world than those seen in her previous works and this edgier approach in her artwork really brings that out.

Story wise, this is a very realistic look at secondary school life. Anyone who felt in anyway different at school is going to feel a lot of empathy reading this. Cortland and Ian aren’t the most likeable protagonists in the world for different reasons. Cortland has had a troubled past and is very stand offish with his family, friends and classmates as a result. Meanwhile Ian is a track prodigy who is also entangled in the activities of the school’s resident thug Spence and is unable to take any of his problems seriously – falling back constantly on making jokes and trying the patience of his girlfriend. But the chemistry between Cortland and Ian helps you overlook this. There is uncertainty all around as Cortland isn’t sure he can trust Ian due to his association with Spence whilst Ian’s feelings for Cortland have left him unsure on where he stands with his sexuality – with his laid-back approach to life not helping him come any closer to working it out. Vieceli and co-writer Malin Ryden have a natural grasp on teen dialogue and behaviour, with everything coming across as natural and never forced.

As far as teen drama goes in comic books, you cannot do much better than this. Vieceli and Ryden have created a fantastic story that will have you running to the web comic to find out what happens next. Definitely worth a read!

Breaks Vol. 1 is out now from Soaring Penguin Press

9781908030214 – P/B £15.99

Click here to read the web comic

Post by Leo

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