After his wife and son are killed in a car crash, David vows to break all of the Ten Commandments in order to force a confrontation with God. As David works his way through the commandments, two figures—Mr. Black and Mr. White—show up to offer David some guidance. Mr. White warns David of the sinful nature of his actions while Mr. Black takes a more supportive perspective. Will David break all ten commandments, or will Mr. White and Mr. Black have something to say on the matter?

Breaking the 10’s strength lies in its art. The art style is reminiscent of manga, and the artist makes effective use of ink and screen-tones to set the mood. The character designs for the principal characters fit them well, and David’s gradual transformation from a clean-cut man into a more ragged sort suits his apparent decline. Mr. Black’s character design—a devilish Goth—particularly seemed to suit the character’s mischievous and snarky personality. Unfortunately, the story is not on par with its art.

Breaking the 10’s plot unfolds very slowly for no good reason. David only succeeds in breaking about five or so of the commandments in this volume, but there is little action in between David’s actions that would slow the story down in order to build tension. Most of the story revolves around David’s transgressions and there are few scenes that either add nuance or tension. The story might have been more engaging if David had either completed or tried to complete his goal in one volume, but even that is unlikely to have fully salvaged the story.

The factor that particularly weakens Breaking the 10 is that David is a nasty, one-dimensional character. The fact that he commits crimes and hurts others’ relationships without any consideration or remorse makes him an awful character to follow and further stretches the story’s believability. The story reveals little about David’s identity before the accident, so it is unclear whether his actions demonstrate a rapid, sudden decline or a reveal of his true character. His abhorrent actions and lack of a clear backstory prevents the story from having an arc of any kind. David also suffers no real consequences for his actions—a fact that further stretches the story’s credibility and weakens the tension.

Unfortunately, the other characters are not fully realized enough to add nuance and balance to the story. Even though they are supposed to be guides, Mr. Black and Mr. White’s characterization do not go much beyond the “bad boy” devil and “obnoxious, holier than thou” angel stereotypes and, like the minor characters, have little role in moving the story along. Readers will likely be especially put off by the fact that David seduces a woman in order to break the “thou shalt not covet” commandment, and she just goes along with it. Since she is shown earlier to have a good relationship with her husband, this incident in particular stretches the story’s believability to the breaking point.

Given the story’s pacing, lack of nuance, and believability, Breaking the 10 will be unlikely to hold readers’ interest. Although the premise might seem compelling to anyone questioning their religious beliefs, they likely will wish to look elsewhere.

Breaking the 10, Vol 1
by Sean Michael Wilson
Art by Michiru Morikawa
ISBN: 9781681120218
NBM Publishing, 2016

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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