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Heart #1 Comic Book Review: The Heart is Hard to Find

The first thing that grabbed me about this issue is how wonderfully the cover art segues into the very first panel of page 1, as the open fist of the cover turns into a closed one to begin the opening fight of Heart, a limited series that tells the story of a MMA fighter in a fictitious league (Monster MMA). 

Blair Butler, the creator and writer, does a fantastic job of getting us into the head of Oren Redmond, a former office drone who was thoroughly bored and unsatisfied with his life, desperately wanting more. And now Oren has found it, through his brutal, intense MMA bouts against various opponents (the first one depicted is against Mike “The Hooligan” Murphy). I personally think that Oren will regret his lifestyle choice later, as there are slight hints in the writing that glory is not going to happen. After all, this is a limited series of 4 issues. It is much easier to depict tragedy than glory in such a limited time. 
If you’ve watched a MMA bout, the action depicted in here is a bit different. It’s grittier and more brutal, but also realistic. Monster MMA is not the UFC. Oren himself only gets $200 and a T-shirt for beating Mike Murphy in the cage. We do not learn what else this lifestyle change has gotten Oren, as the rest of the issue is preoccupied with a flashback to Oren’s life in 2007, as a temp in an insurance agency’s office. The writing, told through Oren’s narration, is fantastic at showing Oren’s frustration and jealousy over his brother’s own success in the MMA ring, building into Oren’s motivation into becoming a MMA fighter no matter how much pain he has to go through. Blair’s brother is both an obstacle and a motivator; his success and his effortless beatdowns on opponents give Oren the determination he needs to succeed and keep trying. 
The effort and “heart” Blair puts into his attempts at becoming an MMA fighter are shown both clearly and subtly in ways that are enhanced in re-readings. Pages upon pages are spent showcasing Blair’s training, from learning diverse fighting styles to brutal exercises. A rather nice touch is also shown in Blair’s choice of entrance music, which contrasts with the more generic entrance music the other fighters use (Mike Murphy uses House of Pain’s “Jump Around” for example), Blair uses the more thoughtful, lesser-known “Reach for the Sky” by Social Distortion. 
However, is Blair’s motivation true “heart”? I have the feeling that Blair has yet to learn what that is yet, though he is showing clear signs of it so far. But his motivations are fairly selfish and petty. I have a feeling this comic will not let Blair’s motivations stay that way, and there’s hints in the “present day” opening pages that Blair has moved on beyond petty jealousy. It’ll be interesting to find out whether this assumption proves true. The answer is not far away, Heart is only a 4-issue mini-series. 

The art by Kevin Mellon has a sketch-y appearance, with barely any inks and giving the impression of faded pencils. It’s a unique look, but it seems purposefully half-finished and amateur-esque. Perhaps this is to echo Blair himself, who is still developing and has yet to reach his full potential. Like many Image books the art is also black and white, adding to the sketch-ish feel. 

This is a promising start to this mini-series and I look forward to seeing what happens next. 
9.0 out of 10.

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