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June 19, 2010: I've launched a new version of this website as a Wordpress blog. This version won't be updated anymore.
If you don't see the images of a review, it means that I've transferred it to the new site.
First issue cover

Hearts & Iron

2 self-published issues of this comic, 2001-.

Category: slice-of-life.

Author(s): Jeff Jacklin.
Second issue cover
The first meeting

With the prevalence of muscled guys in gay imagery - and not only in the porn business -, it might seem strange that there aren't more gay comics which showcase bodybuilders and the like (an exception being Kyle's Bed & Breakfast, where almost every character has a "perfect" physique). Jeff Jacklin's Hearts & Iron is thus rather original from that viewpoint.

When blond weightlifter Carl Hanson sees a dark-haired and very built newcomer in his gym, the attraction is immediate. It will take a short time for larger-than-life John Sullivan to notice the other man, and a chance meeting outside a gay bar will enable them to connect.
Alongside this love story between the two men, Jacklin tackles some interesting themes, such as masculine roles in society versus gay stereotypes (Carl is a builder and John a future engineer) or homophobia (they face gay bashers, and another man at the gym struggles with self-denial). But the manifest will to show two gay men who are into sports, cars and traditionally straight endeavours goes a bit far, in my opinion. The main characters -and the others- repeat so often that, yeah, those two hulking men are, you know, real men, that I can't help thinking they've got something to prove. But I guess it's probably more revealing of my views on masculinity than of Jeff Jacklin's. That being said, Carl and John are likable, believable characters who probably felt a bit lonely before meeting someone else like themselves. Which is always moving.

The art is solid and conveys the characters body language quite well. The storytelling is fairly classic, with a good variety of shots and angles. Jacklin knows how to tell a story in comic book form, and his choice of realism is well-served by his drawings.

While it's obvious the themes of this series feel personal to the author, who's also a weightlifter, I still think the "real men" angle could have been played more subtly. But I'm sure other readers will feel this portrayal of two non-stereotypical gay guys is a welcome change to all the club-hopping, drug-gobbling Madonna fans populating gay fiction.

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