Shawn Kittelsen and Eric Zawadzki’s Heart Attack offers a jarring glimpse into a world that hits close to home and too close to ignore.
It’s no secret that there is a lot happening all across the globe right now. At times, we feel a need to escape it for a while by immersing ourselves in a good book, TV series, or graphic novel. Well, if you’re looking for that kind of respite, you’ll find none of it in the first volume of Shawn Kittelsen and Eric Zawadzki’s Heart Attack, a post-pandemic look at an earth not far off from our own filled with variants, individuals with special powers, who are misunderstood by the masses and media, and who are persecuted by both for simply being who and what they are.
Set in Austin in a time following the “Great Pandemic”, Heart Attack follows the lives of two variants––Jill Kearney and Charlie North––as they discover that, when they touch, their normally benign glowing hands become a powerful force. (And possible PMD , or Power of Mass Destruction, as members of the Variant Crimes Unit refers to them.) But Jill, a member of the Freebodies, a post-millennial media channel dedicated to exposing corruption, wants them to
use their newfound combined powers to make a non-violent stand before other variants discover these same abilities and use them to incite violence against the VCU, thereby proving the government’s anti-variant sentiment is warranted; that they are a threat to society and need to be controlled at all costs.
Charlie, however, is not fully convinced he wants to get involved after attracting the attention of Freebodies founder Sefton Smith for recording the disappearance of a fellow Freebody. But it turns out that Charlie is more involved than anyone realizes, and he is pitted with a difficult choice: join the Freebodies and take a stand, or continue to accept the variant plight as third-class citizens in a world fraught by corruption, hatred, and hopelessness.
Mix in a love story, a bit of religion, a wall, and a political agenda during an election year, and you have a very clear mirror into our own world. What The X-Men did to bring awareness to racial injustice in the 1960s, Heart Attack does for the tumultuous modern age we are currently living through.
The fact is that it’s nearly impossible to read volume one of Heart Attack without coloring in the spaces between with real-life news bits and sound bites broadcast on news channels across the world, specifically in the United States. But Kittelsen and Zawadzki have done their due diligence and have not only made a pronounced statement about the current social and political climate in the States, but has done so in a work of fiction that draws these parallels without getting preachy about it, even in light of the fact that these parallels are not subtle whatsoever. Of particular note are the back pages of each chapter, which feature news reports that are modeled after everything from Fox News and CNN to Wikipedia and the social network, which, when read in full, demonstrates to us how easily influenced the masses in Heart Attack can be, and perhaps reminds us how easily influenced we all can be in our daily lives by the media we consume.
Heart Attack is art imitating life at its finest, and darkest, hour. If you’re looking for escapism, seek it elsewhere. Kittelsen and Zawadzki’s first volume is worth reading over and over again, as an entertaining, timely, and poignant tale of where we’re headed, and what we may leave behind should things get so out of control that it reflects more fully the dystopian world these two extremely talented and astute creators have opened up before us.
Shawn Kittelsen (W), Eric Zawadzki (A), Michael Garland & Mike Spicer (C), Pat Brosseau (L) • Image Comics/Skybound, $16.99
Review by John T. Trigonis