I’m departing from my usual format of reviews and movie news to let everyone know that “Heart,” the four-issue comic book by our spectacularly talented daughter, Blair Butler, is now available in trade paperback.
Not only was “Heart” written by a former Kansas Citian, but it was illustrated by Kevin Mellon of Blue Springs. And the story takes place in and around our town.
“Heart” is the story of Oren Redmond, an Overland Park insurance company cubicle drone, who finds a reason to live in the world of mixed martial arts fighting. The book chronicles his rise in the ranks, as well as the many life lessons he learns, often the hard way.
For several years now Blair has been doing Mixed Martial Arts commentary for her cable TV channel, G4, and her love of and wealth of knowledge about the sport comes through loud and clear on every page.
This isn’t just a proud papa boasting. Check out the reviews:
“HEART may not change anyone’s feelings about MMA fights, but it will have readers reexamining their feelings about what drives some MMA fighters. Everyone knows someone like Oren — a friend who spends three nights a week playing shows with a band that probably won’t ever get signed, a relative who puts every hour of their day into a start-up company even when the economy’s broken, an activist struggling to change the way people think — or maybe they’re facing an uphill battle of their own. As anyone in contact with friends from high school on social media understands, not all of these kinds of struggles are worth watching unfold. In the case of Heart, however, fans are going to want to see Oren’s trials and tribulations through.” — Comics Alliance
“Quite early on, it becomes clear that Oren has reached the glass ceiling, and his MMA prospects are pretty much over. Blair Butler does an excellent job of getting into the mindset of a fighter in the aftermath of a knockout loss, showing how they might lose confidence in their chin, and how that could affect their whole style of fighting.
“Some are never the same after such a defeat, and such is the case for Oren. With his dream slipping away from him, Oren makes the rather pragmatic decision to retire while his health is still relatively intact and it’s not too late to do something else with his life. Here, you might expect to find the glorious climactic beat of “One More Fight”, but the actual affair is quite blunt and perfunctory, and doesn’t go the way we or Oren might have hoped. But surprisingly, this all doesn’t lead to a downbeat ending. There is an unusual coda following Oren’s life post-MMA that at first glance may seem tacked on, but on deeper inspection might be the key to the whole story.
“Yeah, he works a plain, anonymous job as a delivery guy, but he’s married to a woman he loves, has a kid on the way, and he never went back to that miserable office job. His time in MMA is not presented as a cautionary tale, it’s something he can look back on with fondness, not regret. Because although he wasn’t good enough to be a star, he had the heart to take the risk of failure and try. And that, I think, is where we get the comic’s title.
“Blair Butler’s story may be what I’ve talked most about, but Kevin Mellon’s art remains as consistently strong as ever. It’s simple, but Mellon has a great skill for so perfectly capturing the emotion of a moment that you become convinced there’s more detail than there is, with your mind stimulated to fill in the blanks. And I loved the little visual nod to the classic “Spider-Man… no more!” moment from comics history.
“In my review of Heart #1, I talked about the potential for this series to make comic fans interested in MMA, or MMA fans interested in comics. In the end, Heart wasn’t really a series that was a classic showcase for either. It ended up being something more universal than that, dealing with big ideas such as the human struggle to excel, for our lives to mean something, that I think can be relatable to any reader. With a lot of other Image titles getting such acclaim, this one seemed to slip by under the radar. But it’s a diamond in the rough it could very well be worth seeking out as a graphic novel in the coming months.” – John Lees, COMIX TRIBE
“There is something noble about MMA and the ability to protect one’s self- and if it came down to it, the ability to protect your loved ones. I believe this is what Blair Butler is tapping into with Heart, the noble heart of the warrior…
Butler has improved a lot within the span of four issues, her story flows with a more practiced hand than it did in the first issue, and she makes you feel Rooster’s pain of loss and cheer his ability to recover.
“HEART is a great start to Butler’s career in writing comics: the story was concise, the character had a thorough journey from beginning to end, and Butler elicited an emotional reaction from me, something that many writers fail at doing. And with Mellon deftly and passionately showcasing new techniques, HEART would be a perfect entry point into comics for the man in your life that enjoys MMA, appreciates the fights, and can root for the underdog.” – Martin John, The Outhouse
“HEART is packed with flying knees, crazy submissions, dudes getting punched in the face, and a narrative Alex Zalban at MTV Geek calls, “Something exciting and different. In a world awash with generic stardom stories, this one rings true.” – Image Comics
“HEART is a comic worth taking a chance with. It ain’t superheroey, it ain’t in color, and it ain’t your run of the mill comic. What it is is some powerful reading.” – Aint It Cool News
The “Heart” trade paperback is now at area comic book stores. I picked one up Thursday at Clint’s on Main Street…it was their last copy. But if you call them up, they’ll order more. In the meantime, you can put in an order at amazon.com, which will make the title available later this month.
| Robert W. Butler