High school is Hell for some people, but for Eva, the protagonist of Maria Llovet's new series Heartbeat, being an outcast teenager is even worse.. Our hero is meek, downtrodden and comes from what could be broadly be described as a lackluster home life. She has no friends, no allies and a desire that cannot be quenched in her current social position. There is an overbearing glib tone throughout Heartbeat #1, and it's a tone which doesn't really convey what the point of the story is, making more frustrating than entertaining despite its gorgeous presentation.
Heartbeat #1 is a downer the same way that moody poetry from a talented freshman lit major is a downer. There is heart there to be sure, but the tools to express the soul are by no means honed to perfection. The raw story elements in Heartbeat speak a universal truth about social inequality and even touches on the ridiculous educational system that fails so many young people around the globe. But the problem is how it all works to boost the story is terribly broad and the whatever interesting tidbits are littered throughout are far too nebulous to glom onto.
Maria Llovet is an amazing artist. Faithless, the erotic horror fantasy series she illustrates, is so lush in its pacing, pages structure and character design. Her work breathes life into a world which feels removed from anytime else on the shelf right now. Heartbeat is very much the same in terms of its visuals, but where it falls apart is in the writing and plotting. Each gorgeously-rendered establishing panel is almost immediately undercut by either an ill-defined character interaction or bizarre knee-jerk pacing, which is a shame. How good this book looks simply cannot be overstated.
Now, to be fair, the script of Heartbeat #1 is translated by Andrea Rosenberg, so if anything got lost in the process, it's impossible to know. What is known, however, is that despite the issues with the dialogue and narration, the premise this first issue puts into motion will pique a lot of readers' interest. Despite the fact it doesn't happen until the last couple pages, the reveal that Eva's high school crush is a blood-sucking ghoul of some sort feels like it sprinted out from left field and stole your wallet, or at least it would have felt like that if all the press for this book hadn't announced this right off the bat.
Heartbeat #1 is a tough comic to recommend without some significant qualifiers. It's simply too pretty to not want to look at, but its tone is juvenile and feels empty despite the very real and dire topics it's touching upon. Maria Llovet is an amazing talent, but this comic isn't self-aware enough to be entertaining. It's hard to say if Eva is a good character or even an engaging one because there just isn't much to her beyond her set of circumstances. Hopefully this is just a case of a debut issue to what will become a great series, unable to find its footing. But ultimately, Heartbeat #1 is a bit of a heartbreak.
Heartbeat #1 is available now.