High schoolers on primetime TV shows never seem to have parents. Adults are often relegated to the background, occasionally trotted out to dispense discipline, emotional abuse, or words of network television wisdom. The webcomic Sacred Heart takes parental absence to a new level, placing high schoolers in a mysterious town with no visible adults — a town where the kids die sudden, violent deaths.
At first glance, Liz Suburbia's Sacred Heart has all the trappings of a typical suburban melodrama. Ben Schiller is a high school punk who goes to parties, watches cheesy horror movies with her best friend Otto, and worries about her sister Empathy, who has a habit of disappearing for days on end without telling Ben where she is. But there's more to this claustrophobic town than meets the eye. In between the football games and the binge drinking, kids keep turning up dead. Although it's a shock every time another body shows up in a dumpster or hanging from the power lines, the teens don't seem particularly distraught by the deaths of their peers.
And while the kids show up at school, steal booze from convenience stores, attend funerals, and get jobs, it's not clear that there are any adults in the world of Sacred Heart — save one suspicious exception. The police never show up. We see kids in the hallways of the local high school, but never in class. And Suburbia gives us pointed shots of empty spaces behind cash registers, sports practices without coaches, school dances without chaperones. It's as if the entire town is a facade for the parties and sex and experiments with music and witchcraft. If you don't have a friend or sibling constantly looking out for you, you might well end up drowned in the river or found in car with an open throat.
It's easy to forget all those mysteries, though, in light of Sacred Heart's foreground story. Ben wants to keep Empathy safe, but she also has her eye on a guy — and then there's the shaky relationship between Otto and his girlfriend. That's before we get to the dozens of small stories lurking in the background, from the girls who think they're practice magic to the guy who claims he lost an eyeball to cave creatures.
The tagline for Sacred Heart is "Highschoolers in an unholy land." It remains to be seen just what kind of unholy land this little town is. Is there some dark force behind the distinct lack of adult supervision? Is something driving these teens to murder one another? Or is there some more mundane explanation for all this mayhem?