Sean Michael Wilson is a Scottish writer who specializes in collaborations with Japanese manga artists. I’ve enjoyed many of his books, going back to The Japanese Drawing Room, an adaptation of a Victorian travel journal. But his latest work, Breaking the 10, with art by Michiru Morikawa, lacks the thoughtfulness and easygoing charm of his best manga.
Protagonist David, having lost his wife and son in a senseless accident, goes on an extended vendetta against God. That’s cool when it happens in a comic like Preacher and somebody tries to actually shoot God or something, but David’s rebellion is a little more grounded in reality. He decides to break each of the Ten Commandments, just to see if God will try to stop him. Of course, God doesn’t, because when does He ever? Despite moaning about how much he misses his wife, the commandment David seems most interested in breaking is the one that requires sleeping with the sympathetic neighbor lady. Meanwhile, he’s stalked by the devilish Mr. Black and the angelic Mr. White, who are as subtle as their names and drag him into discussions on the state of his soul.
A story like this could open a Pandora’s box of challenging ideas. But here it mostly leads to static, abstracted conversations as David joylessly ticks off sins. It might help if the characters were characters rather than two-dimensional representations of various religious/ moral positions. What if Mr. Black and Mr. White had unexpected reactions to David? What if David’s sojourn into sacrilegious art (graven images, natch) attracted more nuanced commentary than a TV fight between a straw liberal and straw conservative? What if his neighbor’s wife didn’t want to be coveted?
Morikawa’s art is serviceable but unpolished. The story doesn’t provide many interesting things to draw, anyway. The whole manga feels sketched in, like the rough outline of a story that’s a long way from its completed form.
story: Sean Michael Wilson
art: Michru Morikawa