BREATHLESS #2 by Pat Shand and Renzo Rodriguez
BREATHLESS #2 drives the surprising series forward with style. Pat Shand and Renzo Rodriguez successfully develop their daring heroine, Scout, as she faces-off against Big Pharma's big monsters.
98 %
Weirdly Captivating

Asthma is an incurable condition that can cause serious breathing difficulties and often requires expensive treatments. Although medically significant, you might not consider it fodder for an exciting sci-fi comic. But that’s where you’d be wrong. Black Mask Studios series BREATHLESS by Pat Shand and Renzo Rodriguez brilliantly serves a critique of the ethics of pharmaceutical companies wrapped in a Men In Black-esque plot. On top of that, the cryptozoologist protagonist, Scout Turner, is a quick-witted woman of color ready for any challenge. Scout is accompanied by her tiresome sidekick: a garrulous lesbian, Grace-Eisley Wellington Burke. Luckily, the two also join forces with a very adorable canine. Following a fast-paced debut, BREATHLESS #2 keeps the intensity and builds on the fantastic lineup of offbeat characters.

Image courtesy of Black Mask Studios.

Indeed, the comic’s unlikely combination of characters makes the political message all the more lethal. In BREATHLESS #1, Scout Turner accidentally inhales a noxious venom from a large scaly creature. Miraculously, she no longer experiences asthma symptoms. Unfortunately, when Grace-Eisley lets the news slip, they suddenly have bigger worries than what kind of monster will come into their lab next. Big Pharma, who hates to see asthma cured, won’t go down without a fight.

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Unlikely Combinations Work in BREATHLESS #2

Shand and Rodriguez seem unfazed by their unusual heroines or the surprisingly complex plot. The writers include bizarre fantasy mixed with normal aspects of modern culture. For example, one of Scout’s informants is a succubus that spews insults and disgustingly eats raw meat. Conversely, elements such as Scout’s consistently prudish boss, Grace-Eisley’s twitter obsession, and Scout’s flashbacks to asthma-related childhood trauma give BREATHLESS #2 at least one foot in reality. The juxtapositions work surprisingly well. As a result, the comic demands the suspension of disbelief, but easily sweeps readers into the sci-fi landscape.

Image courtesy of Black Mask Studios.

BREATHLESS #2 showcases Scout’s exceptional problem-solving skills. She is simultaneously a nerd in a lab coat and a badass with a stun gun. Shand and Rodriguez balance Scout’s personality, letting her follow in the footsteps of sci-fi heroines like Alien’s Ripley or The X-Files’ Scully. Scout is satisfyingly competent. For example, when Grace-Eisley helplessly flees a marauding monster, Scout insists that they will save themselves. BREATHLESS #2 thrives on satire and ironic foils. Grace-Eisley perfectly plays the foil to Scout, while the two of them battle monsters sent straight from the money-grubbing pharmaceutical industry.

Big Pharma, Big Monsters

BREATHLESS #2 gives readers more information about the pharmaceutical company that is so threatened by Scout and Grace-Eisley’s accidental discovery. Interestingly, Shand and Rodriguez provide all the details as Scout uncovers them, giving Scout’s character some of the narrative power. Although the comic conceals Big Pharma’s nasty tricks with literal monsters, the underlying satire is biting. BREATHLESS #2 emphasizes the astronomical prices life-saving medication costs the average American. Whether insured or not, medications are costly, with no thanks to Big Pharma. The comic’s central concerns relate to hikes in prices of medication reminiscent of recent price gouging of AIDS medication at the hands of Martin Shkreli. Although BREATHLESS #2 portrays the tactics of the pharmaceutical companies in fictional monsters, the critique is clear.


Badass Characters, Badass Design

BREATHLESS #2 would not be nearly so effective without Rodriguez’ expressive artwork. The monsters are scaly, toothy, and have fleshy protrusions. True to form, Scout and Grace-Eisley are dynamic opposites. While Grace-Eisley wears frilly blouses, Scout prefers fitted button-ups and combat boots. Scout has a partially shaved head, making her look even edgier. The combination of the two characters is humorous. Despite their differences, Scout and Grace-Eisley are convincing friends.

Image courtesy of Black Mask Studios.

The comic occasionally verges on gory, however, there is enough irreverence in Shand and Rodriguez’ writing to cut the otherwise revolting scenes. Moreover, Rodriguez skillfully breaks up the comic with well-spaced panels and careful attention to detail.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

BREATHLESS #2 is a surprising mix-up of sci-fi, humor, and social criticism. With so many strange elements, it is shocking that Shand and Rodriguez can pull it off. However, BREATHLESS #2 is an exciting comic and it will leave readers dying for more. Indeed, Scout is a fantastic heroine whose strong energy drives the comic. Her friends and enemies provide excellent comedic relief and tantalizing plot twists, all of which are brought to colorful life in Rodriguez’ illustrations.

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