Sweet Heart is a new series from Action Lab – Danger Zone that showcases how horror and fantasy can be used to tap into very real fears in life, namely when it come to chronic health issues. Sweet Heart #3 is written and created by Dillon Gilbertson, with art from Francesco Iaquinta, letters by Saida Temfonte, and colors by Marco Pagnotta. In the last issue, Gilbertson made it very clear that the story and the monsters in it worked as an allegory for living with diabetes, but did so while showcasing Maddie’s anger at her father for dying, and sadness of the lot he left her.
While last issue set some phenomenal ground for the lore of the series, the way the Stringers and Bruisers work, and worked to strengthened Gilbertson’s allegory, it also expertly began to map out who Maddie is as a person. Her trauma, anger and fear all coming to her through her family’s life with the monsters, the death of her father, and the way she’s bullies at school. Now, in Sweet Heart #3 Maddie goes hunting, catches up with an old enemy while visiting a family friend. Set 20 years after she was first chosen by the Stringer, she’s doing everything she can to fight back against the creatures Ellicott City town has long since surrendered to.
Sweet Heart #3 opens with Maddie and her grandmother training in the snow, an attempt to build a safety net for the Bruiser stalking her. It’s heartwarming to see them together, bonding through the monsters. As the story continues, you see that Maddie’s fight is out of resentment for her father, at least a little bit. While he just wanted to run away from the Stringer that chose him until it became someone else’s problem, Maddie is looking to fight it head on and survive.
As a series, Sweet Heart has now spanned two decades and two characters. It’s a feat that Gilbertson was able to keep the narrative so tight and connected across them. That said, Maddie’s growth is essential to her story and I honestly can’t see this story being written another way. Similarly, Iaquinta has been able to create different versions of characters and their families that never makes me question who they are, which is done mainly through Iaquinta’s ability to draw faces in an emotional way that makes them each distinct, no matter the size in the panel. While Maddie ages, her eyes are still hers.
Additionally, there are action sequences this issue that get to showcase the anatomy of the Stringer in a detailed way that brings us closer to the monsters. This issue turns Maddie into a monster hunter and it fits perfectly. That said, the one thing doesn’t is her impromptu romantic connection with an old friend. The dialogue in this sequence feels off, too fast, and unnecessary as of this issue. While I hope it fits into a larger plan that will work itself out in the remaining issues, here, it feels off and my only critique of the series so far.
Overall, Sweet Heart #3 is a great issue that pushes the series as a whole and gives us a new side of Maddie, one that has turned her rage and trauma into tools of survival. While this issue isn’t perfect, this series is a must by. Now, publishing weekly via ComiXology, it’s time for you to jump into it.
Sweet Heart #3 is available digitally through ComiXology.
Sweet Heart #3
Sweet Heart #3 is a great issue that pushes the series as a whole and gives us a new side of Maddie, one that has turned her rage and trauma into tools of survival.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.