My graphic novel pick this week is “Sweet Heart,” published by Action Lab Comics, written by Dillon Gilbertson, art by Francesco Iaquinta.
This is the kind of horror I live for. The kind of horror in which yes, there are monsters, but the scariest part is what humans are capable of – the complacency, the fear, the sacrifice.
Ellicott City, Maryland, is a town infested by monsters. The town has grown to accept the monsters. They don’t deny their existence, but they have learned it is futile to fight back, so they aim for survival, instead.
Everyone has their own private monster, a stringer or a bruiser. They’re after glucose, and they’re willing to wait a long time for this tastiest of snacks. The incorporation of the mythology into the reality of the town was very well done; they’re even part of the high school curriculum.
The story follows one family, first the story of Ben and his mother, both marked by monsters – “First Contact.” Ben has a daughter, Madison. Ben gave up, like the rest of the town, and resigned himself to his fate; but Maddie has never stopped fighting, never stopped believing. She doesn’t want to die the same way her father did.
I loved this story because it hit all of my favorites: slow-burn psychological horror with a dash of science to explain the magic of the supernatural, strong characters, a dark, atmospheric flavor, and small-town suspense.
What was most intriguing to me about this story was that Maddie’s biggest fight was not with the monsters, but with the townspeople themselves, and her own family. They loved her, but they also wanted to live, and they chose the path of least resistance to survival. The balance of that tension was brilliantly done. I felt the love of Maddie’s mother and grandmother, their fierce protectiveness, even as she had to persuade them of a better way to live. To me, that is superhero calibre.
The art, colors and lettering were all also gorgeously done, building the dark atmosphere and suspense well.
Highly recommend this book.