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The Webcomics Weekly #284: The Hearts, The Sand, and the Webcomic (5/18/2024 Edition)

By | May 21st, 2024
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

The Webcomics Weekly is back in your life and ready to bring you a fist full of double dollars. Or, as the case may be, some “Hearts Full of Sand” as Mel takes a look at this neo-western webcomic.

Hearts Full of Sand
Episodes 1-55 (Pages 1-125)
On hiatus
Written and illustrated by Kenneth J Wagnon
Reviewed by Mel Lake

Many thanks to Elias and Mike for covering for me while I was on vacation! While traveling through France, I got a taste of how much they love comics there, and it was awesome to see. But now that I’m back home in the good old U. S. of A., I’ve got a western webcomic for all you gunslingers and outlaws out there.

I met Kenneth J Wagnon, creator of this comic, at a local indie comics event (DeCAF, the Denver Comics and Arts Festival) this weekend. Flipping through his sample pages, I said, “This looks like ‘Trigun’.” To which he responded by pointing to the gigantic “Trigun” pages on his standup banner right next to my head. I might be clueless about my surroundings, but I know artwork inspired by my favorite neo-western manga when I see it! (Just to get this line of my review out of the way early, if you like “Trigun,” you’ll like “Hearts Full of Sand.”)

On the first page, we meet Jim in the immediate aftermath of a bloody incident. We don’t know who he’s killed or why, but we see the trauma in his eyes and we know something big has happened. Flash forward by ten years, and Jim is living as a fur trapper on a remote mountain with his young daughter, Cor. A man approaches with a gun, but little does he know that the girl also has a gun. And a pet bear! The man has come to warn Jim and Cor that bounty hunters are on their trail, but he’s too late and the group is ambushed. A violent shootout ensues, which ends with Jim and Cor on the run.

Then we flash back again and see the formation of the gang of outlaws that are now pursuing Jim. They once formed a close-knit gang that shared tattoos and a Robin Hood-esque mentality. But things have soured to the point that they’ve put a bounty on Cor’s head to get to Jim. What happened to this family of outlaws to make them turn against each other?

Reading “Hearts Full of Sand,” I kept coming back to “Trigun.” As much as I love Vash and his crazy world of plants and guns, it can be hard to figure out what’s happening in that manga. But in “Hearts Full of Sand,” the action is so clearly portrayed! Characters are so precisely situated in their surroundings that I was never confused as to where they were in relation to each other. Sometimes things like that don’t matter, but in a comic about gunfights, it really, really does. There’s a sequence in the later part of the comic where Jim is scouring an empty desert town for the man he’s hunting. The shootout takes place in multiple locations throughout the town and each is so clearly drawn that reading the pages is like watching a live-action movie scene. On page 164, Jim searches through a tent for his man, turning this way and that, in a sequence of smaller panels that become larger as the tension builds. Then halfway through the page, Jim turns, and BAM! He’s surprised by a shot that barely misses his head. Wagnon’s layout and use of space here is fantastic. Detailed backgrounds paired with action sequences can often mean confusion for readers, but even though every page of this story is packed, it never feels overwhelming.

Another area where I think some manga influences show through is the ever-present sound effects. You’ve got your typical “Bam!” and “Pow!” sounds that show up in American comics, but little sounds are everywhere, too, lending a sense of fullness to the scenes. For example, when characters are walking on snow, they make “krtch” sounds. And, yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like when you walk on packed snow! Along with excellent backgrounds that don’t distract from the character and action work, sound effects and a good balance of dialogue to action make the world of this comic feel complete and three-dimensional. This may not exactly be our world, but it feels real.

I already said this, but if you liked the “Trigun” manga, you’ll like “Hearts Full of Sand.” It’s got gunslingers and a found family gone wrong, plus badass female outlaws and a pet bear. If none of those things appeal to you, well, that’s your prerogative. But, I mean, a pet bear! With 200 pages released, there’s a decent amount of story here. According to Wagnon, this is the halfway point. I’ll be looking forward to the conclusion of this project because it’ll be a gorgeous book when it’s printed. In the meantime, “Hearts Full of Sand” is worth a read for its precise action storytelling and super-cool style.

//TAGS | Webcomics

Mel Lake


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