Heartthrob: Season Two #4

Christopher Sebella (writer), Richard Wilson IV (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist)
Oni Press
October 2017

If you’ve ever wondered what the couple in the Eagles’ song “Life in the Fast Lane” looked like, pick up an issue of Heartthrob. Everything seems simple enough at first glance, just a loving couple going about their business. Only it turns out their “business” is grand theft, and once they get started, Callie can’t stop and Mercer can’t stop egging her on. It’s always “Faster, faster,” and you begin to wonder when the wheels will come off.

Heartthrob, Season 2, Issue 4., by Christopher Sebella (writer), Richard Wilson IV (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist). Oni Press. October 2017

What you don’t know if you’ve decided to pick up Heartthrob here with Season Two #4 is it’s a little more complicated than waiting for the law to catch up to them or for a job to go wrong. For one, Callie only has about three years left to live before doctors predict her transplanted heart will fail. For another, Mercer was her heart donor. As Season One explains, he came along for the ride with the organ, took up residence in her head, and molded her in his thieving image. Somewhere on the journey, they fell in love.

Heartthrob hits all the right notes for me in the art department. I could have sworn I smelled cheap polyester when I first saw Mercer in his brown suit, and patchouli practically seeped through my computer screen when their blond accomplice made his first appearance. Pants are appropriately bell-bottomed, sideburns are prolific, and all the sunglasses look like they could hide a planet behind each lens. Everything screams “1970s.”

Robert Wilson IV also knocks it out of the park in how he illustrates Callie’s mental world. This is her story, hers and Mercer’s, so what she sees as real, we see as real. Colorist Nick Filardi makes sure Mercer is every bit as solid a figure as any other, right up until Callie turns her back on him, when Wilson sends him blowing away like a sandcastle in a breeze. When a stoned Callie daydreams herself a cabin, we stumble from living room to forest through a haze of smoke right alongside her.

Heartthrob, Season 2, Issue 4., by Christopher Sebella (writer), Richard Wilson IV (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist). Oni Press. October 2017

Callie and Mercer by Robert Wilson IV and Nick Filardi

What leaves me conflicted about Heartthrob was the story itself. Christopher Sebella’s dialogue is snappy, and Callie’s internal monologue keeps the story moving. I’m also dying to know whether or not Callie can outrun the long arm of the law.

However, the dynamic between Callie and Mercer is so unhealthy that I found it hard to read. It feels as though Mercer is constantly isolating her from anyone who cares about her. For her part, Callie lets her desire to impress Mercer override her good sense; it pushes her into riskier situations in search of bigger scores. Watching two people drive each other toward mutually assured self-destruction is not comfortable viewing.

Then again, maybe that’s the point. “Life in the Fast Lane” isn’t comfortable listening, either, when you get down to it. A race to the bottom never is, even if you’re just a spectator.