As confused as I was when I dropped into this sequel series (not having read the original), I am so glad that I finally found Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara’s Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire. If you’re anything like me, take note, because this may be the best comic book that you’re missing. Hearts of Fire #2 continues to follow second-generation dragon trainer - the young and tragic Enrico - on the way to avenging his father’s death. But that’s just the overarching motivation. This time, the series focuses on the gravity of a mid-twentieth century world where dragon fighting is society’s favorite underground pastime. It does this first by showing the brutality and depth of mythos in the bloodsport itself, portrayed in a dizzying sprawl of pages that really takes you into the high stakes of its story.
But it measures this in something rather more intimate: a violently fractured family dynamic so common of the actual depression; one that, again, is built as perhaps the world’s most pressing threat. And honestly, this issue has it all: fantastic, dynamic characterization, which shows true autonomy of voice; simultaneous conflicts that range from class to race warfare; and that family story, which focuses everything into a personal struggle not unlike what you might see in Locke & Key in a weird way. Kelly coagulates all of this into an atmospherically thick story about blood, fire and pain that is truly beautiful to behold, with an equally gorgeous visual assist from Fiumara’s singularly unique artistic style.
It almost goes without saying how magnificent, how real and full Fiumara’s world feels. Whether it’s the action in the foregrounds, the detailed architectural trappings of his backgrounds or anything between, he nails almost every single panel; wavering only slightly with some of his more cartoony facial acting.
The juxtaposition of figure work between his people and dragons is perhaps his greatest feat in this series. It is as stark as his decision to go mostly monochromatic, and just as arresting. This is a world dangerously ill at ease with itself, where fiercely chiseled dragons bely the savagery of the story’s true monsters: mankind. And it’s that visual schism that really sells the point, particularly in the soft lines of someone like Enrico and the harder, more gruff gnarl of his otherwise innocent dragon, the titular Four Eyes. That difference plays out particularly well, and sadly, by the end of the issue.
Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire #2 is a damn triumph, and if you are sleeping on this, as I did, then it’s time to wake up and smell the burning.
Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire #2 Writer: Joe Kelly Artist: Rafael Ortiz Colorist: Max Fiumara Letterer/Designer: Thomas Mauer Publisher: Image/Man of Action Release Date: 2/24/15 Cover Price: $2.99