Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Review time! with ‘Ballad of the Broken Heart’

“If you knew then what you know today you’d be back where you started a happier man”

As you might recall, I’ve been a big fan of Stefano Cardoselli’s work since I first saw it a few years ago, and it seems like there’s a nice giant backlog of his stuff that keeps getting translated into English, which is nice for me. Cardoselli doesn’t always write the stuff he draws, and in this case, this is written by Andrea Amenta (although Cardoselli and Amenta came up with the story together). It’s colored and lettered by Tommaso Devito and translated by Daniele Bonfanti. I can’t find it on Amazon so I can’t link to it, but it’s published by Second Sight and costs a mere $9.99.

When Cardoselli is drawing, you want to have a lot of ultra-violence, because Cardoselli is really good at cartoonishly excessive blood-‘n’-guts. Occasionally this will get you a really good story, and occasionally it will just get you a mediocre story that works solely because Cardoselli goes to town on it. This is a case of the latter, unfortunately, although it’s not a terrible story, just a very simple one that feels like it’s there only to allow Cardoselli to draw a lot of violence. In a dystopian future, a discharged soldier wearing an odd outfit and a fish mask is on a mission. He was in love, and his lover has disappeared. In this future, there’s a “lottery” for people who will then be killed because population controls are so strict, but their families will be given a lot of money. Meanwhile, the elite continue to live well, getting all sorts of surgeries to essentially live forever. We don’t know what’s going on with the soldier and his lover, exactly, until the end, and then it becomes clear. The three people our soldier (whose only narration is short, poetic musings that tell us virtually nothing) has to kill are a monsignor, a television personality, and Donald Trump. Yes, it’s another Trump analog, which is boring, but basically, the three represent what Cardoselli and Amenta consider the most corrupt and/or vapid organizations/endeavors in the world – the church, television entertainment, and politics. Our hero kills his way through these three pillars of society, and we get a brief glimpse into said society, and it’s not pretty. Finally, we find out why he’s doing it, and he can rest. There’s really not much else to it.

This is basically all about the art, and Cardoselli brings it, but if you don’t like the way he draws, you’re not going to like this. This is almost a satire, because our hero uses a nice sword to kill everyone, so of course there’s going to be blood, but Cardoselli has a lot of fun with blood geysers blasting out of people as they die, and he shows each slash of the sword lovingly. It’s very fun to look at, but if that’s not your thing, I get it. Meanwhile, Cardoselli is always very good at creating this horrid future (a lot of Cardoselli’s comics are set in run-down worlds, and he’s very good at drawing them), and he does a nice job showing not only the opulence of the One Per Cent but also the decay inside that opulence. There are a few absolutely beautiful pages where the warrior reflects on his mission, and there are some horrifically funny pages in which a woman gets a face lift, and while so much of the book is given over to brutality, Cardoselli shows that he’s very good at what he does, using thick black lines to create monsters but also using thinner lines to make our hero almost delicate in some places, as if the violence is coming close to breaking him. It’s a typically excellent art job by Cardoselli, in other words.

There are other Cardoselli books that are better, but this isn’t bad. It’s a bit too quick, and Cardoselli and Amenta rely a bit too much on our preconceived notions about how evil the Catholic Church or Donald Trump are, so we’re doing a bit too much of the heavy lifting, but it’s pretty good, and it’s very nice to look at. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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