Originally published as part of Malibu’s Bravura line in the ‘90s, “’Breed” had two mini-series and then disappeared. Now, after including pages for a third in his recent art book, Starlin has returned to the title through Image, publishing collections of the first two series and adding a third, “’Breed III.” Despite being a big Jim Starlin fan, I’ve somehow not read any of his “’Breed” work, but the first issue is an easy to understand jumping-on point for new readers. In fact, one of the biggest flaws of the issue is how much space is devoted to pure exposition instead of simply telling the story directly.
Ray Stoner is a crossbreed between human and demon that hunts other half-breeds in an effort to stop the schemes of the Fathers, the demons that raped the human women to produce the half-breeds. We learn here that the goal is for the demons to eventually devour our world, something they’ve been preparing to do for half a century. This information is presented in a long, drawn-out explanation of Stoner’s past and what he’s been up to since, presumably, “’Breed II.” Instead of simply showing us, Starlin tells us, and the comic suffers for it.
Even the scenes where Stoner narrates what’s happening then have more life in them than when he tells a woman and her son about his past. There’s no urgency in the telling and it could have been done more economically. Especially since the issue starts off with a strong action scene and looks like Starlin is diving into the story, feeding just enough information for new readers to catch up. Instead, it’s only a tease before a tediously long explanation about the lead character’s background, one that doesn’t even finish in this issue.
In the interview Starlin provides for Image’s “The Word” feature that gets included in some of their comics, he says “Coloring ‘Breed’s backgrounds” is the best part of his job and it’s easy to see why. Using lots of computer effects probably is fun, but they don’t make for the best colors. Starlin’s ability to integrate those computer effects into his art is weak. He has a style of art that lends itself to more basic colors, ones that accentuate his line work, and the coloring here is garish and distracting.
It doesn’t help that this is not Starlin’s best art to begin with. The opening fight is Starlin’s best work in the issue, where he can depict lots of movement and chaos. When characters are just standing around, they lose something. The mother and son in this issue look especially bad; They're somehow underdefined and plain.
That “’Breed” is finally being collected and concluded is good closure on one of Jim Starlin’s lesser known works, but the debut issue of the third series is not a strong one. The structure Starlin uses, having the lead character tell a story instead of simply presenting it while it happens, hampers things and sucks all of the energy out of the comic. Artistically, Starlin’s compositions are as good as always, but the line work and colors leave a lot to be desired.