Monday, November 16, 2015

The Fairer Sex, Part IX: Heartstopper: Sorrow About To Fall #1

I liked this book a lot better when it was called Vampirella

Heatstopper: Sorrow About to Fall was the lovechild of Steve Roman. Making its debut in 1994 under the Millennium imprint, Heartstopper flatlined after issue number four. Millennium also put out two H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu books, both of which lasted three issues. After reading through Heartstopper, I’m torn about this. My inner HPL fan wants to find them and possess them, while my outer comic book crapbox detector is saying there’s no way these titles could be any good. Luckily I haven’t run across them in the bargain bins.

Unluckily I did run across H:SAtF, which is a Vampirella knock-off with very little to recommend it. Writer Steve Roman even admits lifting the character in the books post-script letters page. Egged on by former Vampi penciler Louis Small Jr., Roman took the original vampiress who battles evil while wearing a barely-there costume and recreates her as a shapeshifter who battle evil while wearing a barely-there costume. Small started to pencil the series but suddenly found more profitable work calling him. Wise move on his part. So art chores were passed to Uriel Caton, who does a barely passable job on it. The panels are very amateurish and short on intricacies. He’s replaced in issue number two by another newcomer: Holly Golightly, soon after to become Broadsword Comic’s star. But even that doesn’t save the book. Roman hoped for Heartstopper to turn into the next Shi or Lady Death. What he got was four issues that are now worth a quarter each.
Our heroine’s name is Sebastienne, which seems like a mouthful. Her job is protecting people like our first victim, who happens to be jogging through New York's Central Park, from the rapid troll infestation that has long plagued that area. And you thought muggers were the problem. This guy’s teeth could bowl you over. Never fear Sebastienne is here. (Gosh that name is hard to type!)

I love that the title of the issue is “She’s So Unusual” when in actuality the character concept is a ripoff of another character. I think that’s irony, but I’d have to check with someone else to be sure. Regardless, Sebastienne and the troll thing begin to fight. At this point the audience has no clue about her abilities and it looks like she’ll be hacked to pieces in short order. She taunts the troll before the fight with one of the worst drawn “tongue licking lips” panel that I’ve ever seen.

Look at that! It’s like a red popsicle-stick poking out of her mouth. The troll takes the bait, and makes like a lumberjack. Sebastienne dodges out of the way and slices troll-boy down the side. Then she gets all freaky on us.

Ewwwwww! Forget about how unappealing that looks. Doesn’t she know that in today’s HIV-positive world that constitutes a big no-no? Audiences are more likely to shudder at someone doing that than they are to feel turned on by a mild taboo. It also makes one more element stolen from Vampirella. A less copycat approach would have been to make Seba (I’m not typing that mess anymore) much more interesting by giving her something other than a very literal bloodlust.

A very drawn out fight scene ensues. Caton does his best to portray the action in an understandable fashion. He succeeds but many panels have an coarse and unrefined appearance. Like something a teenager would draw. Then the Troll has Seba under the blade of his axe, just a hair’s breadth away from losing her head. It’s about this time that we get a true taste of her powers.

And her powers are exceedingly sharp, elongating fingers. I suddenly find myself wondering if she’s ever visited Liefeld’s future. Actually her powers are shape-shifting and physically molding her body into a variety of forms. While the troll is grabbing his gaping sockets, Seba takes the opportunity to pick up his axe and do this.

So she turns into an exact duplicate of troll-dude. Notice how amateurish that panel looks. There’s almost no shading or detail work on any of the characters. The inker doesn’t do any fill ins and the colorist tries their hardest to make it not look so flat. It’s easy to see why this guy gets the heave-ho after this issue.

Back to our battle, Seba uses her newfound size to lob off the offending trolls head, an action that leaves her covered in blood. That, of course sets the stage for another panel of “bloody chick getting freaky.” I’m not sure if I’m more turned off by Seba’s power to turn into masculine monsters or her covered-in-blood fetish.

I hate when I’m fingering myself in the middle of a public park while covered in troll blood and suddenly realize that I have an appointment to be somewhere. It happens more often than you realize. Not only could the art benefit from an upgrade, but the book could benefit from a PG-13 or Suggestive Material sticker. We should move on though, as Seba turns into a bird and flies away. Just like in that Nelly Furtado song.

The book shifts gears as Seba shifts shapes, leading us to a conference room where executives of the NCT television network are discussing how to garner more ratings. This fellow is about to make a startling announcement about who they’ve hired. I’m about to photoshop this panel all over my Facebook feed. What a wonderful tagline.

This is Ron, who’s last name is withheld because he’s such a flaming queen. Ron’s dramatic idea about what to do to raise ratings during the 4th of July weekend is signing the band “Hellfire” to perform in a live concert. His pitch is met with skepticism, the most biting coming from Shelley, who’s last name is withheld because she won’t be alive much longer. Shelley cites the band’s egomaniacal streak and their penchant for storming offstage in the middle of performances. Ron’s answer to all this is to introduce her to his dick sac.

Sorry, make that: introduces her to Dick Sach, Hellfire’s agent. Dick assures everyone that Hellfire will behave. He’s got the word of Hellfire’s lead singer Corum de Sade.

Corum’s the next bad guy, if you didn’t get that from all this buildup. This panel is so odd. I really like the way his upper body is depicted. It’s better than the work the artist has done in most of the book. But you get down to the pants and suddenly all that goes to hell. Those are suppose to be red thigh-high leather boots but the colorist missed the memo. They look about the same color as his chest, making for what looks like an oddly cut pair of shorts or a guy with flaps of skin at the top of each thigh. And then his arms look so out of proportion with those legs. Sad sight because this is possibly the best panel in the book.

We shift from de Sade’s introduction to Sabe in bird form arriving at work. She’s an exotic dancer at a club called The Inferno. Her boss is on a tear to find her and we find him verbally abusing the head of security of the club, Scotty, to keep tabs on Sabe. They argue right outside her apparently empty dressing room about what is a bouncer’s responsibility and what isn’t. Suddenly Sabe steps out to surprise both of them using the old “I was in the shower ploy.”

There’s a neat scene after this between Scotty and Sabe that may hint at a romance to come. My advice to Scotty is to work fast, he’s only got three more issues.

So Sabe arrives in time to do her floorshow, which is suppose to be erotic and powerful and sexy and etc, etc, etc. But really it’s just an excuse to print pin-up type pictures in the middle of the book. Here’s what I’m talking about.

We get three pages of giant graphics and then we move back to de Sade, who is currently mind controlling Shelley to come join him under a bridge in Central Park.

She’s the sole voice of reason against his concert performance, but not for long. De Sade plants the “kiss of death” on her and drains her life force. We exit the book with Shelley’s body looking like a piece of cordwood in the arms of de Sade, a sure sign that he’s going to come into conflict with Sebastienne next. 

Not a great issue, but I do love that shot of Ron. 

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