Pullbox Reviews: Sacred Hearts – Asking the question, “What if the Goonies had tried to summon Cthulhu?”

For Chris, Dirk and Shelley, life in their small town has always been quiet. But they have all heard about the Franklin Farm… a place they should never go near. When the three best friends decided to build a tree fort in the woods, they dare each other to go there in search of wood, and find themselves in a strange world they never expected, setting off a terrible chain of events.

In this place, monsters are created, and an ancient evil from an old family curse is rising within their little town. But in all the chaos, they come to learn that not all monsters are bad. Some are special… some are born with a Sacred Heart.

From horrific beginnings, this special Monster was born from a broken pact with evil, and somehow a door to a dark world had been opened. With the help of their new monstrous friend, the kids try to stop the destructive forces happening al around them, and end the curse once and for all.

In the world of Young Adult fiction, there are pitfalls aplenty and the biggest tends to be underestimating the audience. Granted, the “young adult” tag has a lot of ground to cover and without a doubt it’s a big jump from 12 to 17. Trying to craft a story that’s entertaining & challenging, not too intense for the young end of the demographic and not boring for the older crowd can’t be easy. We got our hands on an advance review copy of Sacred Hearts, & it looks like the folks at Storm Kids, the YA division of Storm King Comics, might have found the formula. Apparently it starts with just telling a decent story.

Fist bump to writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, The October Faction) for hopping up onto this particular balance beam, for lining up his tumbling run and not falling flat on his face. While there might not have been many real surprises along the way, Sacred Hearts covers a lot of creative ground. Within the first five pages, we’ve gone through the birth and subsequent sacrifice of a baby! Sure, I might question that this book should be aimed at the “12 and up” crowd, but what do I know? I was reading Stephen King books when I was 13 or 14 and I turned out… okay. Themes of child sacrifice aside, Niles doesn’t lean in so hard that he should be too worried about receiving therapy bills for his younger readers. He holds back just enough so that the more hardcore horror imagery is more suggested than displayed outright, giving a little more to the older readers (myself included) while indulging in a little sleight of hand to slip things like infant burials past the young’uns.

Artist Nat Jones (Heavy Metal Magazine, Spawn, Death Dealer) follows suit in his work, presenting the suggestion of more mature imagery rather than laying it all out in the open. He’s able to present the Niles’s storyline, once again holding to the idea that there are going to be some younger readers seeing it play out on the page. Even so, things get pretty serious once the major players get introduced and the tentacles start flying. Jones has a great style for the blend of lurking horror & character driven plotlines, even throwing down some more dynamic action later in the story.

Janice Chiang upholds the most important part of any story… the lettering, without which there would just be some cool pictures with no dialogue or sound effects. Sure, it could work for a bit but eventually we’re going to need a bit more. Having done work for Marvel & DC, in both hand-lettered and digital formats, she’s got chops to spare. For Sacred Hearts, Chiang’s efforts are more subtle as she tweaks dialogue to give a voice to both the monstrous & the mundane. And forevermore, “splorch” might just be one of my favorite onomatopoeia effects…

Nothing bad ever happened in a dark cave…

Front to back, Sacred Hearts was a pretty fun, occasionally chilling account of what might have happened in The Goonies if, instead of hunting for lost pirate treasure, the kids had found the Necronomicon and summoned Cthulhu. Which is, now that I’m thinking about it, the story I never realized I always needed. While I’d hesitate to hand this one to a 12-year-old (unless I really didn’t like the kid), it’s a great horror story for the mid-teen and up range.

Final Score: 11/13

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