Review – Heart of Steal #1 (Cabal Comics)

Publisher: Cabal Comics
Writer: Fraser Campbell
Artwork: Katie Fleming
Colours: Rebecca Horner
Lettering: Hassan Otsamane-Elhaou
Available on Kickstarter until Sunday 25th of August (CLICK HERE)

Heart of Steal is the latest offering from writer Fraser Campbell (Alex Automatic, The Edge Off, and the impressive artistic triumvirate of Katie Fleming, Rebecca Horner and recent Eisner Award-winner Hassan Otsamane-Elhaou, and a funding campaign for the first issue is currently live on Kickstarter.

At first glance, the story here is a relatively a straightforward one. In an attempt to save the life of her dying brother, teenage thief Toni Doine decides to steal a transplant heart from a notorious gangster, sparking a large-scale pursuit involving the gangster’s “associates” and local law enforcement in the process. However, things get a little complicated when we realise that one of Toni’s two closest childhood friends works for the police department, and the other is one of the mobsters!

After a brief introduction to our three key players, the bulk of this first issue is dedicated to a sprawling, dynamic chase scene which sees Toni being pursued across the futuristic Alpha City.  Motorbikes, makeshift disguises and a little parkour are utilized as Toni’s inner narration pushes the story forward and helps fill in all the blanks, and the whole thing crackles with energy from start to finish.

Full disclosure, with Campbell at the wheel I kept subconsciously expecting some sort of mind-melting, David Lynch-style twist, which is probably doing a disservice to what is a well realised and thoroughly entertaining all-ages tale.  It’s a straightforward story skillfully executed, packed with excitement and intriguing character dynamics, and most certainly keeps the pages turning from start to finish.

Katie Fleming brings a dynamic, slightly cartoony aesthetic to the visual side of the book, a style which works well to nail the fast-paced delivery.  The character designs are solid, with the Lara Croft-esque Toni standing out as she continually stays one step ahead of her pursuers, and the action flowing smoothly throughout, with the exception of a couple of slightly confusing moments during motorcycle portion of the chase.

For my tastes, Rebecca Horner’s colours are perhaps a little heavy in places, but they do go a long way towards establishing the vibrant, futuristic aesthetic of Alpha City.  Rounding out the visual package, Hassan Otsamane-Elhaou delivers the various sound effects with a real flair – a particularly valuable contribution when you consider that a significant portion of the chase sequence is entirely free from dialogue.

The final few panels are likely to raise some eyebrows, featuring a fairly weird situation that feels excitingly out-of-context when compared to the issue as a whole, and which leaves the direction of the rest of the series as a tantalizing mystery.

Ultimately then, while it’s most certainly a step out of his established wheelhouse, Heart of Steal does a great job of demonstrating Fraser Campbell’s previously untapped versatility, while also serving as an impressive showcase for the talents of Fleming, Horner and Otsamane-Elhaou.  Well worth a look.

The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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