Heart in a Box Kelly Thompson

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art: Meredith McClaren
Publisher: Dark Horse

We’ve all been there.

You have that one break-up. They were awesome and they meant the world, then they threw all you had together away. It might have been one bad falling out, it might have been a cheat, it might have been one big mistake. Theyre gone and the pain becomes overbearing and you want out. Then you sell your heart away to the literal devil so you’ll never feel pain ag…wait that’s just what me and Heart in a Box protagonist Emma do? Go figure…

HIAB is a fun little miniseries from Thompson and McClaren examining heartbreak in the most literal sense. After a particularly bad break-up, Emma wishes away that part that you really shouldn’t wish away. It’s not long after the enigmatic man Emma christens “Bob” takes away everything that means anything to Emma that her life devolves into. She realises her mistake too late and must strike up another deal in order to reclaim her lost heart: One that could easily lead to murder.

HIAB’s grim premise is offset by its bouncy humour, taking the metaphor of becoming emotionally dead in order to deal with loss as literally throwing away all the feelings you’ve ever had. Emma as a protagonist, and I hate that this is something certain authors forget to accomplish when it comes to building a likeable character, is a normal human being. She can’t deal with heartbreak properly, lets her depression pile up around her and refuses to address her flaws until the last minute. She comes across as being the absolute opposite of stoic and controlled and often wishes for her problems to vanish by themselves. Her journey to pick herself up again is bound to be an interesting one as she does her level best to set things right again… though with varying levels of success.

Art wise we have a great style that I hesitate to call cartoony though it’s not afraid to throw realism to the wind for a really nice shot. My personal favourite design is the “no really he’s not that evil” Bob and his serpentine eyes and body. We have some nice hues of purple and green layered over each panel and it gives a sad tint to the cloud hanging over Emma throughout the comic. McClaren has some stellar work going on here, one highlight being a newly heartless Emma’s dead-eyed wandering through life as the weight of her mistake sinks in.

Criticism wise we have a cold opening with a very violent act that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the comic’s lighter feel. Maybe with context it will fit in better but it feels off for our introduction to Emma being her driving an axe in someone’s neck. For a character than many in the audience can understand and empathise with, killing a stranger does not quite compute as well. At least for some people I suppose…

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