REVIEW: Four Eyes- Hearts of Fire #4

There are basically two types of dragon stories. There’s the one about the fearsome and terrible beast that will wreak havoc unless tamed or destroyed, like The Hobbit or Game of Thrones. Then, there’s the one about the dragon who ends up becoming an ally/pet, straddles the line. The young boy Enrico puts his blind dragon into a fighting ring in hopes of earning enough money to bring his family out of a financial dependency, but sometimes the reward is not worth the cost. I had no idea that I would like this book like I do, but its progressive and primitive simultaneously, creating a glimpse into the human condition that rarely is touched upon in comics.
This comic begins in the heat of a dragon on dragon fight to the death, with Four Eyes at the mercy of its opponent, the Pirate. Enrico, the young trainer of Four Eyes, is so concerned that he jumps into the ring to help and it doesn’t end without some degree of bloodshed. After the fought, he has to come to terms with the results and must face his aggressive stepfather (or the equivalent of such) after his misfortunes. The setting is very hard for me to place, but if I were to guess, I’d say between 1930’s and 1950’s New York. There is a strong mafia presence and the neighborhoods are run down. There is a heavy theme of abuse throughout the book, ranging from interpersonal relationships to the training of wild beasts. I like the mix of fantasy into a very realistic tale of hardship.
So there were highs and lows for me in this comic, but it all works together. Firstly, I need to commend Joe Kelly on his writing. Most of my experience with his work is from Deadpool and Spider-Man, so I was surprised at the seriousness of the book. It has no humor whatsoever, which is usually a turn off, but for a story such as this, jokes would be inappropriate. He writes Enrico with such drive and optimism that it is so difficult to see him suffer the way he does. He has visions of his dead father in states of semi-consciousness, like Obi Wan telling him to use the Force. I feel bad for the kid, but hopefully he can recover from his pain. Max Fiumara’s art is hit and miss for me… On the one hand, the dragons are really cool and the fighting is vicious. On the other hand, his style is sketchy and his characters have clear racial identities, almost to the point of being racist. African-Americans look borderline black-face. It lends to a clear, diverse art piece, but parts off it rubbed me wrong. Don’t get me wrong, it is good; just had some questionable design choices. I will say that for the lack of color, I was never in want. Aside from some rust colored tones, the whole thing is in black and white, keeping the tone depressed and muted.
I enjoyed Four Eyes and became very invested in the fate of the characters. This ends Act 2 of the story, whatever that means, considering the book is only 4 issues in. Even if the art isn’t my normal taste, it fits the story. I do recommend it, but be aware that while this book has a boy training a dragon, this is not for children.
Great story, 4 out of 5 Stars.
(W) Joe Kelly (A/CA) Max Fiumara
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