Pullbox Reviews Her Hardboiled Heart, espionage and disfunction wrapped up in a gritty story full of twists, turns, & chainsmoking

Every killer’s got a hardboiled heart.

Paul’s an ‘Operator’, a private sector spy working in the darkness, where British secret services don’t dare to play. His new job? Watch a beautiful woman. Just watch. But this woman isn’t all she seems. In fact, she’s not in trouble… because she is trouble. And she’s the exact sort of trouble Paul likes to get himself into.

What starts as watching soon turns into a dangerous game of cat and mouse across the streets of London.

Back in 2019, I reviewed Her, a one-shot story from UK comic creator David Taylor. It was a fantastic example of minimalist storytelling from start to finish and embraced everything that’s cool about the espionage & noir genres. Taylor is back at it, taking a second swipe at his story and filling it out into a three-part narrative of secrets, betrayal, and the kinds of people responsible for both.

If your preference is to follow likable characters through a story, don’t expect a comfortable ride as Paul takes readers through the narrative (not so sure how happy I am with that choice in name, David). His latest assignment is a surveillance job, something he feels is pretty much beneath him… until he sees the woman he’s been ordered to watch. Paul isn’t given her name, no indication of why she’s under surveillance, and he’s ordered not to make any contact for any reason. From the beginning, it’s… well it’s something at first sight as Paul’s fascination with Her grows into obsession. What follows is a study in degeneration as Paul goes off-mission to, in his mind, protect the woman he’s been told to observe.

There are going to be people objecting to Her Hardboiled Heart because of Paul’s behavior. And seriously, if you don’t find him objectionable there’s something very wrong and you should seek professional help. The question we should be worrying about at this point is why a clandestine paramilitary organization would be worried about the day-to-day life of an anonymous woman? It’s not a huge leap to realize that not everyone is who they appear to be in Taylor’s story, and it’s pretty cool riding along as he slowly doles out information by the teaspoon.

Based on some of the things I’ve read and heard in interviews with David Taylor, I get the impression that he works from the artwork on up. That makes a lot of sense as his illustrations lean heavily into the gritty atmosphere he’s working with, from his rough linework to the stark color palette. I know there are people who hate drawing comparisons, but all of it is reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke’s turn at Richard Stark’s Parker. From his earlier work, Taylor has been improving and developing his style. That’s something I always love to see when following a particular artist.

If you’re a fan of crime noir comics that lean hard into the genre, David Taylor is a creator you should be watching… but be sure to check out Wild Nature, his step away from noir in a loving nod to 80s action movies. When you come back to Her Hardboiled Heart, be warned: once you start down the road, there’s no turning back. That’s a lesson being learned by Paul… the character in Her Hardboiled Heart, not me.

Final Score: 12/13

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