Taken a standard sports movie arc but applying it to an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) story is a shrewd one by Image. It’s only fitting that such a brutal and violent sport should lend itself to a visceral reading experience. “Heart” is a double edged word in the world of MMA, meaning paradoxically strength (that boy’s got heart) and weakness in the way that too much heart can leave one vulnerable, the comic follows Oren ‘Rooster’ Redmond on his journey through this world. Being a professional fighter in 2009 the title flashes back to 2007 and shows us Oren as a directionless layabout character, stuck in a dead end job and generally displeased with his lot in life. Seeing the adulation afforded his brother through his fighting career Oren decides to become involved and to fight his own destiny in the ring.
As I said it’s a fairly standard sports story structure, one could point to the turgid Oscar winning ”The Fighter” to see a brotherly tale told through boxing and how some of the themes echo here. Truth be told it’s hard to take the subject of sports and not fall afoul of a few narrative cliches, the very aspects of the world being fairly standardised (see also every military comic/ movie ever made). Basically a few things have to be ticked off and these hallmarks of a genre are necessary failings in the story. It all depends on how well executed they are and Heart is a solid read. Its nervy black amd white art can be a bit inconsistent at times, details falls away on certain compositions which may be a choice but still leaves me a bit dissatisfied with the certain panels. The storytelling is strong and the energy of the fights and the quieter moments captured well by Kevin Mellon. With good character work seen throughout the book its all the more disappointing when certain panels seem flat or uninspired.
Blair Butler does give us some nice character beats with character narration appearing but not being overwritten. Again Oren is a character we’ve seen many times but I am interested in his development and how he will become the fighter the opening scene presents us with. Will the book have the heart it so proudly wears on its cover (and sleeve) or will it just descend into slugfest after slugfest? I’m predicting a steady if unspectacular run but I’m more than willing to be surprised. This is a good engaging read but I hope some more twists are added to give it an identity outside of the more generic offering it seems to be right now.
Don’t lose heart readers but only find it and pick it up if you know you already enjoy this sort of thing.
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