What an absolute pleasure it was re-reading the beginning of this series, now in such a nice hardcover. I first read it by borrowing my sister's paperbacks, but when I found out they were releasing hardcovers of the series, and the first one was coming out on my birthday no less, I immediately asked my sister for it which she kindly bought for me as a present.
It's hard to properly communicate and articulate what Heartstopper means to me in a single review, so it's definitely something I'll absolutely have to cover on the podcast (Joe Talks Comics) at some point and I'm very excited for that.
I think the creator, Alice Oseman, says it really well in the author's note at the back of this book, which also highlights the points I particularly want to make sure I cover in this review:
"People come to the story for all sorts of reasons - for the realistic romance, for the LGBTQ+ rep, for the art, for the drama. But I think most of all, people have been drawn to Heartstopper because it brings them comfort.
It brings me that too."
The whole story, the characters, the relationships and dynamics, it all feels so genuine. That's not to say it's perfect, but it never feels over-dramatised or unrealistic. The romance and the representation feels real and meaningful, rather than bland and empty (looking at you Marvel and DC), and along with any conflict it just generally feels well-written in a satisfying way.
Heartstopper is a book that's not ashamed to be gay, but it's also not afraid to have that conflict. Whether that's with Charlie's backstory and... situation with Ben at the start, Nick's gradual realisations or any homophobia in general that the main characters have to face, it feels well balanced in that sense. Again that's not to say it's the most sophisticated conflict you've ever seen, but it works for the story being told.
Another one of the points covered in the above author's note is the art. Alice's facial expressions for her characters are amazing. They're so... well, expressive. She can get across so much about the characters, and their place in any given situation, with just the faces. As this was originally published as a Webtoon, it doesn't have to conform to traditional comic panel layouts. The speech bubbles often feel fluid, and how they're done adds almost as much to the reading experience and portrayal of the characters and the story as the facial expressions, arguably. Together with the various sound effects used it's so fun seeing how lettering is incorporated in a unique way to make the reading experience even more unique and entertaining.
Finally, yes, this series is so comforting. It will probably make you cry, but that's okay because it also gives you a warm hug. It's cosy, it's simultaneously heart-warmingly sweet and heart-breakingly real, and at the end of the day it's just such a treat to dive into. It's so quick to read, I feel like I could be flipping pages through a Heartstopper book for hours just reading about the exploits of Nick and Charlie, especially when the other characters get introduced later.
Highly recommend if you're looking for a new LGBTQ+ comic to get into and you haven't read it already!
You can also find his podcast on Twitter @JoeTalksComics, which you can listen to through Anchor, where you can find links to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify, or you can click those hyperlinks directly.