In the Age of Games, people don’t play soccer or basketball, but poker, dice and board games… Juan, a total prodigy at playing cards, is going to participate in the greatest event in the planet: the Great World Games Tournament!
Hearts by UltHamBro (or Ultimate Hammer Bro), is a webcomic about card and board games –specifically focusing on the art of cheating. It is not necessarily an original idea, but the fact that cheating is encouraged and people are praised for these abilities, is a unique twist.
UltHamBro uses an intelligent start to the comic by introducing the concept via frames. Each frame is a close-up shot of the previous one. This series of images gives enough background information to the readers to know that the story is about games and that cheating is an important element.
However, the introduction as a whole is relatively boring. It does not create a strong inclination towards the characters, and if you just read over the first page to see if you want to read more, you may pass it up. There is no real draw towards the story (unless you have an obsession with card/board games).
The introduction does not make a story, and this is an important fact to remember. An introduction is used to draw in an audience and to help set the scene. The latter is clearly accomplished. The rest of the story (although not very far along) flows smoothly with a clear plot.
Aside from a boring introduction, the overall writing is remarkably well done considering it is a translated comic. Some of the awkward conversations between characters could be blamed on a translation error. The issue becomes grammatical, and flow from one conversation to another could be improved with help from an English-speaking editor. This needs to be clear however: all sentences make sense. The issue comes from the way the sentences are presented and therefore interrupts the flow from page to page (very subtle).
Looking at UltHamBro’s art, it is clear that he struggled to find a style in the first couple of pages. I’m actually slightly disappointed by the fact that he decided to stick with “subtle color shading” as I had preferred gray-scale. That being said, some depth to the shading would help improve this art style dramatically and create a more impressive appearance.
Personal preferences aside, UltHamBro’s art is very clean. The lines are smooth and the panels are distinct. These features allow for an easy deciphering of characters from backgrounds, and flow from scene to scene. UltHamBro also uses lines to draw the eye in, and these same lines can also be used to add drama to a scene.
There are some areas that could use improvement, however. One area that most (if not all) artists struggle with is anatomy. Getting proportions right can be incredibly difficult and takes a lot of training and practice. UltHamBro could work on proportions of the upper body to the lower body, including head and feet sizes.
Some of the angles that are used in Hearts can also be a little awkward. I can understand the need for dramatic effect, and making someone look large and intimidating can be done from an angle looking upward. This is a difficult angle to master though as it usually ends up looking out of place and making the reader uncomfortable.
To add on to the understanding of anatomy, is the understanding of objects and object composition. Understanding how an object is put together is just as important as understanding how a person is put together. It needs to be proportional. For example, it is generally agreed upon that when a person sits, that person’s legs should bend at approximately a 90 degree angle when sitting upright. Now, this isn’t necessarily true depending on the size of the person, or the size of the chair/couch/etc. But it can be taken as a guideline and tweaked from there as necessary.
What may play a role in some of the anatomy and object difficulties could be the simplicity of the art. UltHamBro shows that he does have the necessary skill to create more complex drawings, and I think that if given the time, the outcome could be phenomenal.
Overall, I think that Hearts has a nice twist to a classic plotline and the potential for a great story. I find the art to be a little too simplistic, but UltHamBro proves that he has the ability to improve dramatically in this area as well if a little more time is spent to add depth and detail.
If you are looking for a comic that you can watch an artist grow from start to finish, I would highly recommend Hearts. This comic is not very far along yet, so catching up to the new pages will not take you long.
Make sure you go and read Hearts by UltHamBro here!