Words, Story & Letters: Paul Allor
Pictures, Lines, Colours & Covers: Paul Tucker
When last we left Hollow Heart there was angst. Robot angst. If you are looking for happiness well there are some positives to this issue (the escape works) but no happy endings yet as we add to the sad robot angst with some really deep human angst.
As usual we get two tales in the narrative, metaphors for the themes of the story. There are two such stories here, one is short and opens the story and the other lasts the rest of the issue. Both are probably the easiest ones we’ve had yet to fully understand, at least on the surface.
On a basic level this is a very simple plot of El at the behest of and with the help of Matteo finally escaping the facility. Except there is far more going here than that. In fact I would wager that in a way El and Matteo aren’t even the real focus of this story. That belongs to Donnie who through this issue becomes sympathetic whilst still maintaining his role as the bad guy security muscle. It’s a delicate balance but is really well pulled off here.
We of course have character development for El. We see El looking for revenge and hiding from Matteo the strength of his real emotional state. There are moments that so nearly fall into reveal that it is frustrating in a good way that El doesn’t quite finish opening up. Matteo himself could be read as passive even though he is driving the escape. Yet he isn’t, he’s reasoning with El, trying to be the voice that drags El out of his figurative prison even whilst he manages to do that physically.
Donnie too is trapped. Trapped by his own quick temper, trapped by the fact no-one seems to appreciate him, by the need to be loved at a basic level, at being seen as something more than he is. The issue opens and ends with Donnie who suffers more than with just the injuries inflicted by El.
That’s really what’s interesting. We want El to succeed but at the same time we can be upset by what happens to Donnie, even though he tries to stop El and Matteo from leaving, even though he would see El certainly destroyed.
The real villains of the piece are the scientists and we still do not know what they are planning, why they let El escape, what the long term goal actually is of the facility, what the long term goal of what they did to El is. We can hope that other issues will provide answers but the answers are secondary to the central emotional core of three men all broken and trapped in their own way. Even Matteo is trapped by, what can at times be, an almost selfish desire to help El.
As usual the different art layouts really work. There’s a really affecting last page of Donnie alone which just works so well. Yet throughout the way the panels on top of panels give focus to different aspects of the story, the way the white space is effectively used gives the narrative a real weight, so each snippet of the tale can be related directly to a moment in the art. It’s a really great way of telling this story.
The colours also really complement the underlying emotional story. There is a great moment where El’s rage is beautifully reflected in the colouring of fire and explosion. The blues and greens of the facility contrast with the warmer colours of the real world outside in the morning.
And as always the lettering is excellent especially with El’s speech.
I would say this issue is probably the best yet. Possibly helped by the fact we know these characters, but every reveal here is beautifully made and still leaves enough mystery that we want to get to know them even better. Moreover, this issue ends on such a superb emotional note.
Angst fans everywhere will love it. As will those who relish characters who develop, change and reveal pieces of themselves.