Sweet Heart, published by Action Lab – Danger Zone, written and created by Dillon Gilbertson, with art from Francesco Iaquinta, letters by Saida Temfonte, and colors by Marco Pagnotta. Now at its end, this five-issue series has showcased how deep horror can go and how creators can transforms their own fears into monsters and bring audiences along. Last issue, Maddie was abducted by her childhood bully, nearly sacrificed to save his son, and ends the issue set to conquer the monsters that have hunted her and others. That said, it ends on a cliffhanger with Maddie’s Stringer causing her to crash into a tree. Now, in Sweet Heart #5 Maddie makes a final attempt to save herself, her family, and her town.
As the final issue in the series, Sweet Heart #5 offers up emotion and action in equal measure. In it we see the final confrontation between Maddie and her Stringer while also seeing her grandmother put her training to work as she tries to outrun her Bruiser. But the action, while beautifully illustrated by Iaquinta and colored by Pagnotta isn’t the highlight of the series. That honor goes to Gilbertson’s ability to present an unwinnable circumstance and craft a heroine who fights tooth and nail in the face of hopelessness. Sweet Heart showcases the power of the horror genre, how our monsters take form in media, and offer up a cathartic experience for us as readers or viewers.
While Sweet Heart #5 has a climax, and a shocking one at that, it’s Gilbertson’s words that echo from the last page, reaching out the reader, helping them, consoling them. While this story is based on Gilbertson’s own experience with diabetes, as shown with the tonic that pushes the monsters away and the glucose being the way that victims are chosen, this story is one that reaches across experiences. Anyone with personal issues, mental or physical can find power in this story.
With the pandemic showing no signs of slowing, many people, like me, have been put through the wringer, struggling to survive or find peace in a time where everything is uncertain. For me, this series came at a time where my health struggles were compounded by the current crisis, and Sweet Heart #5 released during a particularly bad mental health week. But Gilbertson’s words were exactly what I needed to hear:
“Understand the monsters are real, the danger is real. But it does not own you. The most important thing you can do is be brave.”
The weight of this series came from showcasing experiences with the monsters. Those who ignored them, taunted them, and defined themselves by them. In its finale, it was showing how Maddie, her family, and by extension, the town can fight back. They just need to be brave, for themselves or for someone else.
I read this issue prior to release, and I kept the words “It does not own you,” with me as a struggled to fight through some rough days. There is balance that Gilbertson hits, the danger is real, and we can’t ignore our problems. But in recognizing them, we can fight them. We can be brave.
Overall, Sweet Heart #5 is a phenomenal close to an already great series. I don’t know who needs to hear the final words of the series, but “There’s always a reason to keep fighting.”
Sweet Heart #5
Overall, Sweet Heart #5 is a phenomenal close to an already great series.