Pretty much what this series does to your heart

Words, Story & Letters: Paul Allor
Pictures, Lines, Colours & Covers: Paul Tucker

I find that Hollow Heart is one of those books that pays to have multiple readings because there’s a lot going on. Not only is there plot about the characters but there’ also the morality tale narration, which both fits with the art and the story being told but is also slightly removed. As a result I find I need multiple readings to really help to clarify what’s going on but also the story being told. 

There’s a lot going on in this story and I am reminded of the phrase a gilded cage is still a cage. El might be out of the lab but that’s not the end of it. At first he has a semblance of freedom and there’s a wonderful splash page detailing some of the developments that have happened, but as time goes by he starts to question Mateo. Why is he still being fed rations from the lab? Why is he being given the same tests used at the lab?

It’s sort of heartbreaking to see El’s realisation that although he’s escaped his prison he still doesn’t have freedom. It’s clear Mateo is doing what he thinks is best but there’s still the barrier of emotion between them. At one point Mateo admits ‘I can’t feel what you feel’. It’s a heartbreaking, small panel that really underlines the fact that it’s not physical distance keeping them apart any more. El’s realisation that Mateo is using the same methods as those who hurt him (albeit with kindness) is pretty heartbreaking. Even more so when you know that Mateo does care but sees this as the only way to give El his freedom.  

They aren’t the only ones suffering this issue with emotion. One of the scientists is on administrative leave after being blamed for the breakout. She too suffers with distance in an emotional sense unable to connect with her son, or the rest of her family it seems. Her work is her cage even as she is forced to leave it, it won’t leave her alone. She’s more interested in El’s emotions than her own or those of the people around her.

The ending where these two characters’ stories intersect leaves us wondering what is next for both of them.

The art is, as usual, great. It’s hard to show El’s emotions given El’s design and yet we can see how El feels which is not easy to do with a character who doesn’t look human in any real way. It’s a testament to the art that we are fully aware of Els’ emotions and can empathise.

The use of small panels is really great, highlighting key things. Character emotion and action are all so well contained and having more impact as a result. Of particular poignancy is El’s foot on the edge of the roof. Small panels that reveal so much.

Also revealing is the narrative story of this issue – the story of the man and the hypnotist. At first it doesn’t have much connection but by the end the parallels are clear and it is well worth the reread to really pick up the impact of it.

Hollow Heart continues to bring the angst in the best of ways. It’s a hard hearted soul who can’t empathise with El. El is starting to really learn and now El has escaped another gilded cage, what next? I await the angst.

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