Heartland is a one-shot comic written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Steve Dillon (Preacher) that’s about an adult family living in 1990’s Belfast, Ireland while dealing with issues surrounding politics alcohol, religion, familial drama, and The Troubles. The story follows Kit Ryan after breaking up with sorcerer/detective John Constantine in Hellblazer reuniting with her family while reconciling with an abusive past and memories of her alcoholic father.
The story overall, is very dark and realistic. The cool, dull colors of the story reflect this very well along with the very realistic facial expressions of the characters. The dialogue is also clever, authentic, and comes from a place deeply rooted in the setting: All of the characters speak in a way that lends to Irish accents (aside from Bernadette’s British boyfriend) and are portrayed as people living in conjunction with very real hardships from the time period of the setting: Kit’s father was an alcoholic who abused his family, British solidiers are currently occupying Ireland at the time, and there’s a violent tension as seen early on when Kit’s stalker Neil gets accused of being a drug dealer by a UFF group and is then is promptly capped in the knees. This scene in particular also showcases something I really like about Dillon’s art: How many characters he can place nicely in a scene and the pleasing angles he chooses to display various expressions.
This also lends vey nicely to closeups and a great use of shading on Kit’s face on page 52 in order to get an even amount of emphasis on both expressions in the panel.
As the story progresses, we are introduced to the rest of Kit’s family, including her spiteful sister Bernadette, and her sisters’ significant others. As the evening goes on, we learn a lot about the home Kit and her family grew up in thanks to very cleverly placed flashbacks that appear as if they were cuts in a film: The way these flashbacks appear are “logical” in terms of visual context and from context in dialogue. The color scheme in the flashbacks is exactly the same, and the only obvious visual clues are the inclusion of Kit’s parents in the scenes as well as her and her sister Bernadette being younger.
As the story continues, Kit explains to Rodney how everyone has gotten used to the military being present. Later after going to the bar, Kit and Rodney return home and kiss. Bernadette then comes home early and accuses Kit of trying to ruin her life. The two fight, with Bernadette blaming Kit for the death of their parents and Kit trying to explain that their dad was an abusive drunk that made their life miserable. Bernadette’s only defense of her father was that he loved her more and Kit finishes the argument by lying that Bernadette was born from their father raping their mother. Bernadette runs out shocked and the scene settles down. The story then ends with Willy singing a song about Belfast while drinking on top of a pile of rubble.