Thursday Comics Hangover: A lot of heart

A month ago, I referred to the first issue of Heartthrob as “a very promising ghost story/heist comic.” At the time I was giving it a cursory mention as one of a fleet of new heist-themed comics. Now that the second issue of Heartthrob is out in comic shops, I can tell you that it doesn’t deserve to be shoved off into laundry list of trends. This is already shaping up to be a terrific comic book.

Heartthrob is the story of Callie, a quiet young woman with a heart defect who doesn’t feel like the protagonist of her own life. She gets a heart transplant, and she suddenly starts taking risks. Soon enough, she learns the reason for the change in her behavior: the heart in her chest belonged to a career criminal named Mercer. Mercer now appears as a ghost to Callie, and the two of them fall in love. They become a Bonnie and Clyde-style love affair, two souls wrapped in a single body. Or is Callie just losing her mind a little bit?

The second issue of Heartthrob finds Callie and Mercer engaging in a torrid cross-country love affair as he instructs her how to become a criminal. The page where he teaches her skills like pick-pocketing and explosives is laid out like a board game, and though it’s a cute-enough transition, the layout unfortunately doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. It’s a needlessly ostentatious, attention-grabbing moment in a book that ordinarily revels in its own confidence.

Robert Wilson IV’s art is right on the fine line between alternative and mainstream. Sometimes his characters resemble Dan Clowes drawings, and other times they look more like your standard attractive crime comic characters. His lines are thick and his shading is heavy, but a lot of nuance comes through on his characters’ faces. And he seems to revel in the book’s late-70s setting, with all its enormous cars and the polyester clothes that look so fine in Nick Filardi’s burnt-orange color palette. Visually, the book could not be more welcoming.

And Christopher Sebela’s script matches the art with its clarity and its appeal. Heartthrob is an unashamed love story, a straightforward account of a woman finding her voice, and a story of two people taking on the world. It’s a goddamned pleasure from the first page to the last.