(Stefano Cardoselli, David Sandoval, Craig Cilliland; N.A.S. Studios)
When you think small press comics, you rarely think of blood soaked cowboy tales telling of the Devil's Vengeance, do you? Well, thank goodness Stefano Cardoselli is here to fill that niche and scratch that itch -- and he does it balls-out, head-exploding, six-guns blazing, BANG!!! with his new book from N.A.S Studios,Heart of Stone -- and whooo doggie, this book is so over the top you either have to love it or burn it as part of some sort of purification ritual.
Me? I loved it. Then again, I always prefer my over the top to be really, really over the top.
The premise of Heart of Stone is that there is this town under siege from a gang of perverts, deviants, and psychopaths led by Kat "2 Guns" McSea, a rootin' tootin' badass lady gunslinger who has Love tattooed on one tit and Hate tattooed on the other. The town leaders need a plan to extricate themselves from their situation. "Yeah, and bringing back to life a dead piece-of-shit, gambling, drunk, gunslinger is an obvious solution." Makes sense to me. They must be Republicans.
A fellow called Travis is the piece-of-shit they are referencing and when we first meet him, he's hanging dead and rotting from a tree while some sexy succubus is chatting up his corpse, talking revenge. The city elders engage the services of some random voodoo priest who inserts a Heart of Stone into Travis' corpse, thus reanimating him (of course). From here on out, as one might expect, this comic descends into some serious bloodshed where nobody is sparred.
And it's awesome, all kinds of awesome. Really, though, I mean if you think about it too much, the plot of this comic is kinda weak, the characters are kinda two-dimensional, and the dialogue is kinda wooden. But still -- KAR-BOOM SPLAKT SPLUT SPLAKT BOOM! It's insane, relentless, bloody, and so, so over the top.
What makes it so great is, of course, the wicked combination of Cardoselli's scratchy, inky art and colorist Cilliland's profusion of ochers and oranges and the deep heavy crimson of blood. There is nothing subtle about these pages -- they are as violent as the action the depict and it is the perfect blend of art and intent. If this comic had a scent, it would be of hot, putrid, rotting meat.
While reading Heart of Stone, it's hard not to sense the glee Cardoselli was feeling as he was creating these pages. It pops off the pages like fired from a revolver, and it's infectious as all get out.
Heart of Stone may be the least politically sensitive book I've come across in years. It's probably somewhat offensive to just about everyone, yet somehow Cardoselli is able to pull this off without the slightest twinge of ill-intent or meanness. This comic is dark, it's misogynistic, it's awash in gore and blood and splatter, but it's fun and really, sometimes this kind of fun engenders a cathartic joy.
So, if over the top is how you like your violence and you're particularly partial to it being served Western style,Heart of Stone is your book.