Dallas’ Own Robert Wilson IV Brings a Remarkable Pulse to the Noirish Comic Heartthrob

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What’s the cure for a good girl with a bad heart? A transplant. From a criminal. And a whole lot of Stevie Nicks.

That’s the premise of Heartthrob, a philosophical joyride of a comic that’s illustrated by Dallas’ own Robert Wilson IV. Its first five issues have just been released in trade paperback, so if you’ve been waiting to take it for a spin, it’s time to grab the wheel, hang on and buckle up: This one’s all hard angles.

Thanks to writer/creator Christopher Sebela (Escape from New York, High Crimes), the twisted page-turner ventures into some pretty remote emotional terrain, asking questions like: If you couldn’t trust in anything, including your own heart, what would you do to cope? If your life were stamped with an early expiration date, would you live each moment fast, or live timidly to stretch it as long as possible?

And finally: What if you got to clear your history with a second chance?

That’s the path you’re on with Heartthrob’s protagonist Callie, a gal who’s picked at her own emotional scabs her entire life. That raw ache led her to live for everyone but herself. Now, she’s gotten a heart transplant … but it’s loaded up with its own programming.

Soon the heart’s previous caretaker, a sweet-talking criminal named Mercer, begins to cameo inside Callie’s world. She falls for him, hard. Mercer has his own designs for their next chapter, and they’re nested in big heists, ride-or-die romance and the dulcet sounds of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album.

It’s your basic heart-as-hostage, tandem self-destruction, fully-spun-out-on-love story.

Wilson has spent years applying his own lens to some of Dallas’ most coveted gig posters (film and music). And his style — whether it’s showcasing a Philip K. Dick flick or a chillax Best Coast show — is a stand-out, both in color pallet and by its tender aesthetic elegance. His work left the city’s limits as he moved into illustrating comics like Bitch Planet (book three) and Knuckleheads, and now you can see what he does with creative control over a visual storyline on Heartthrob. And you should: It’s remarkable.

Wilson draws romance into dark corners. Hope into scars. And beauty into the bedding of a cross-your-heart hotel room. There’s a balance here, and it gives you room to breathe in the possibility that Callie’s dysfunctional relationship is as much with herself as with this manifestation. And then comes the emotional freedom to say “fuck it,” because if something’s real inside your head, then it’s real to you, you beautiful weirdo.

Somebody, queue the Fleetwood Mac.

Heartthrob’s trade paperback consists of books one through five, and is now available at your local comic book store. Go pick up a couple copies: One for you and one for the criminal that occupies your heart.

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