Review - Heart #1

The MMA world has gained in popularity as of late, most likely owing to the void left by a decline in quality boxing (with a few notable exceptions) and the WWE's insistence on placing theatrics over techniques. It's not so popular though that it's a household sport yet, so I was a little surprised when I found out Image Comics was releasing an MMA-themed comic.

Heart #1 is written by Blair Butler, illustrated by Kevin Mellon and lettered by crank!. And as far as MMA comics go, it's an interesting read.

The first issue is called "Sprawl" and introduces the reader to Oren "Rooster" Redmond, an aspiring fighter seeking to emerge from his brother's shadow in the octagon. It opens up with him fighting against Mike "The Hooligan" Murphy as a display of his improved muay thai skills. The actual fight is only a few panels, but it sets the tone for the rest of the issue (and series as a whole).

Oren joins Monster MMA and shows the reader what it really means to be an MMA fighter. It's definitely not sunshine and rainbows as Oren goes through the typical regrets and reservations after one day of training. The comic wouldn't be a comic if he didn't go back for more and when he does he moves from an overweight, clumsy man to a lean, coordinated MMA fighter.

What's interesting about Oren is his progression from an office drone, unsatisfied with his life, to the up and coming fighter that he is. His brother, Jimmy "Big J" Redmond is a fighter with a following that proves to be the inspiration Oren needs to get into the MMA field. The issue reads a little like Fight Club, in that the protagonist looks to violence as a means of escaping the mundane.

Blair Butler has done a great job creating a comic about the MMA. Amazingly, Butler has successfully parlayed her support of MMA and hosted segment "MMA Chokehold" from G4's Attack of the Show into a comic. She clearly knows the MMA, as the book boasts some fighting descriptions that are bit on the technical side. It's not a bad thing at all and is actually quite refreshing to see that Butler's written something she really cares about.

Kevin Mellon's art might be my one gripe with the issue. It's not bad per se and the black and white adds grittiness to the issue. It's all really just pencil sketches with few panels showing any detail. The fighters sometime get lost in the sea of grey behind them signifying the artist and some panels even look incomplete. I'm sure this was intentional to add to the work, but while reading Heart #1 I couldn't help to think at times I was looking at an unfinished sketchbook.

The book will definitely appeal to MMA fans as I'm sure many of them can relate to its contents. I'm curious though to see how Butler fashions a four-issue series out of this topic. Not saying she can't do it, but the first issue more or less encapsulates the MMA fighter's change from non-MMA to MMA. Hopefully Butler's got something planned out that doesn't boil down to every issue being Oren merely overcoming a big fight and improving his record.

The book hits stores in November and interiors are below.