Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Max Fiumara
Letters/Design: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: Image Comics
It is important to note that this issue is the second arc in the story created by Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara. The first arc (Four Eyes) came out between 2008-2010 and although Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire can easily stand alone, I highly recommend picking up the first arc before giving this one a read. Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara have created a spectacular story and I’m happy I wasn’t a comic book enthusiast in 08’ because eight years is quite a long time to wait for a sequel! If you’re a comic noob like myself, then you may not have heard of Joe Kelly, but he seriously has his paws all over everything in the comic world. He is one of the creators of Man of Action Entertainment, a quartet of writers who have worked on some of the biggest franchise characters like Superman, Deadpool, and Spider-Man. Kelly also co-wrote Ben 10, and is the writer of I Kill Giants. Max Fiumara is equally as busy in the comic world. He has worked for Avatar Press, Marvel, DC, and Dark horse and is currently working on B.P.R.D and occasionally helps his brother with Abe Sapien (check out his blog).
Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire is the continuation of a story about a boy named Enrico, who is seeking revenge for his father’s death. The story is set in New York during the depression era with one smallish twist, underground dragon fighting is all the rage. In the first arc of Four Eyes you find out how Enrico’s father dies and what he must do to obtain his illegal baby dragon. This issue explores a few of the obstacles Enrico will face when it comes to owning, raising, and training an illegal dragon. Enrico is quite young, and is eager to learn about dragon training, but he discovers that the methods used by the “professional” trainers aren’t exactly kind. Future issues will tell us a lot about the path Enrico will choose, and they will eventually lead to him and Four Eyes participating in their first dragon fight.
My main issue with comic books growing up was that I felt they didn’t have enough words. As a child who loved the written word, I had heavy doubts about their ability to create the same depth as a novel or other piece of literature. What I didn’t consider was how amazing it is that comic book writers could do just that: create unimaginable depth with so few words, and Joe Kelly is a master at this. His writing is just the right amount of funny, dark and expressive and his dialogue fits so perfectly with Fiumara’s illustrations that I can hear not only the words, but their tones as well. The language used fits the era, and Kelly successfully dodged any anachronistic expressions or jokes. There really isn’t much more that can be said about Kelly’s writing, he’s a master, let’s just leave it at that.
Fiumara successfully captures the 1930s depression era with his gritty, slightly cartoonish style, as if paying homage to a horror noir. Somehow, he manages to make dragons fit perfectly into this era as if they were always meant to be there. What I really love about this comic is that it is almost entirely in black and white. Ordinarily I would be disappointed by this, but its deliberateness and the minimalistic color used in many of the illustrations makes it work. Washed-out reds can be found throughout the issue highlighting characters and amplifying text. Fiumara has truly mastered the art of capturing expressions and Enrico has the expressive face of a child who simply cannot mask his emotions. In addition to Enrico’s expressiveness, we are also shown some very creative depictions of different species of dragons (Four Eyes wasn’t very cleverly named, but children aren’t the greatest at naming things). I can’t wait to see more from Fiumara as this series progresses, and as Four Eyes becomes a fully grown lethal fighting machine!
What I love most about this story is that it completely caught me off guard. I didn’t find the setting particularly interesting until suddenly there were dragons involved! As far as I know this hasn’t been done before and the duo handle it quite well. This isn’t your everyday revenge tale; it will likely become a story where a boy must question everything he believes in order to make changes in his life. Four Eyes: Hearts of Fire was published on January 6th, 2016, and can be purchased in print or digitally for the very reasonable price of $2.99!