Review: ‘Sweet Heart’ Brings Back The Terror Of Legacy In Issue 2 Print Run

by Malissa White

Sweet Heart gets back in the saddle this week, with the print release of issue 2 after a pandemic related hiatus. Fans of the series finally get to know what’s next for Maddie, after her father Ben was finally claimed by the Stringer in Issue 1. 

Sweetheart. Cover art by Francesco Iaquinta.

For those of you new to Sweet Heart, Issue 1 introduces us to a town plagued with entities that cling to, and hunt, its residents. Ben first encounters an entity, a Stringer, at six years old. Through narration, we watch Ben and his mother manage his infection through a prescribed tonic. It’s managed so well that Ben forgets to fear the entity. But, after his own run-in with a Bruiser, another breed of the entity, Ben gets fed up. In his rage, he blasts the Stringer for following him for so long. But, after thirty-five years, the Stringer gets close enough to feed.
There are some entities that cling to our lives, manifesting in the form of disease, of trauma and addiction. Sweet Heart effectively manages the metaphor in terrifying green plagues known as Stringers and Bruisers. These plagues act differently: Stringers, for instance, are tall and lean, and are believed to pass genetically. Bruisers move slowly, and prefer their prey to be “gluttonous,” as Issue 2 lays out. Both crave sugar, which works perfectly for the entities as metaphors for diabetes and its two types. 
Sweetheart Page Preview.

Sweet Heart #2 follows Maddie, now in high school, eight years after her father’s murder by the Stringer that plagued him. That same Stringer now follows her at a closer clip and she struggles with its looming presence in the midst of her anger and adolescence. Maddie establishes early on that she is no victim, not to the school bully Justin or the Stringer.
Sweetheart Page Preview.

Writer Dillion Gilbertson truly has crafted a terrifyingly real monster rooted in mutability and as pervasive and haunting as them all. Like any good mythos, Sweet Heart monsters represent our worst fears and deepest traumas. In Issue 2, they show up in times of grief, pain and anger, souring loving nicknames with insidious provocation. 
Sweetheart Page Preview.

Gilbertson’s story offers the mysterious (we don’t know where they come from or why they choose certain victims), but is firmly rooted in familial power and protection. Maddie’s mother, grandmother, and father fight tirelessly for survival. The burden of that survival falls to Maddie, however.  The entities embody both metaphorical diabetes and generational trauma simultaneously as Maddie’s grandmother struggles with the burden placed upon Maddie and the pain of losing Ben. We understand that Madde inherited a painful legacy, and the Stringer’s proximity is equidistant to her own pain.
Sweetheart Page Preview.

Artist Francesco Iaquinta’s monsters recall swamp creatures in their veiny green forms, their toothy grin tinted red with blood. When paired with Marco Pagnotta’s colors, the art takes on a scratching nightmare quality, a fairy tale of the darkest kind. Saida Temofonte’s lettering stands out in the apparitions’ broad, brush stroke letters that emerge from dark corners and split panels, some bursting apart like spores. There are some great sound effects here. I love that Temofonte played with different styles with great effect. 
Mind your sweets while reading this one! You can get Sweet Heart #2 on Comixology or at your local retailers.

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