Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Robert Wilson IV
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Christopher Selba
Publisher: Oni Press
What happens when after being told you will soon die for most of your life, you are given a new lease on life? That is the question faced by the protagonist of Heartthrob #1, Callie Boudreau. It's the 1970s and Callie is in need of a new heart. Organ transplantations are a relatively new thing, but Callie gets on the waiting list and while she is waiting, puts together a sort of life. This isn't just a slice of life comic, however, and soon Callie finds things around her getting strange.
For reasons that will become more clear upon reading the issue, this really reminded me of the the series Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and not just because it's set in the '70s. Writer Christopher Sebela starts the issue by making sure we get to know the character before starting the plot, which I think is a wise decision. Let us create an emotional attachment with the character and we're more likely to be invested in what happens later in the story. Things are not going well for Callie, and beyond the whole needing-a-new-heart-thing, her issues are things most people can relate to. Most people have had money issues, or medical bills, or significant others who bail when it looks like things will get tough. In that respect, it is a smart move by Sebela to make these connections, because it helps ground the series before veering off into the supernatural later on.
Developments that happen later in the series are what helps set this series apart from other crime series, and while it isn't difficult to figure out what happens based on the series synopsis, I don't want to spoil it here. Let's just say Callie finds a new romantic interest by the book's end, one who is a bad influence on her. I will say that I think she jumps into and accepts what's happening to her much quicker than I would have expected, but it looks like romance is going to play just as big a role in the series moving forward as the crime elements.
I haven't yet spoken about the art, but that is because I was saving the best for last. Robert Wilson IV does a really nice job. I think the area he excels at is faces. You can just tell at certain times in the issue how fed up Callie is, whether with work, or life, or everyone's shit. It really helps make her come alive. Wilson has a pretty clean style, avoiding the use of a lot cross-shading. He also does a nice job with the fashion, as the clothes the characters wear look pretty legit.
Heartthrob #1 is a technically very nice issue, and the story, which seems like it's going to start one way, has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep things interesting. If you need something to scratch that Criminal itch, you may want to give this a shot. If you think there needs to be more strange romances in comics, then this definitely is for you.