Who are the real monsters?

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

We’re now reaching the climax to Hollow Heart. Here we are at the penultimate issue as narration wise we start to go back to the story we had back in the first issue about the boy and the fish he let loose in the woods. That metaphor is here again playing out as El stumbles through the world and the line of what his freedom is breaks down.

There’s some real heart-rending things going on in this issue. El has run away from Mateo’s apartment but he’s suffering away from the tether that’s been placed there to keep him going. That technological explanation is only one facet however as the other is that although he’s stumbling about in the real world emotionally he’s interacting with Mateo talking to him as if he were there whenever anyone interacts with him.

It’s heart wrenching to see poor El in such a state as he’s reached for freedom but has lost it in his emotional maelstrom. He’s also being pursued by security trying to bring him in and takes a fair few blows as they bring him down though he deals a fair few blows himself living up to what many of them probably believe he is – a monster.

Poor Mateo doesn’t really know what to do. Like the boy with the fish he acted out of the best ideas but all his beliefs were not enough to change the course of the things. For there’s another story here. Another metaphor about a man trying to put back the original course of a river. Mateo has tried to change the course of El’s river but it’s not been enough.

The stories and metaphors we have really help the story and are worth paying attention to. The story of the fish is expanded from what we heard in the first issue and it’s really only now that we can fully appreciate it and its role in the story, what it was telling us about El, Mateo and what they were doing.

The blond doctor reappears and is as creepy as she was before. Not just interested in dancing with a guy she also covets his eyeballs apparently. She’s a contest to Holly, the other scientist whom we spent time with last issue. Dr Kryll to give her her actual title seems to exhibit sympathy and it is she who goes to Mateo and assures him they can fix this.

I am going to throw out the spoiler that by the end El is recaptured but we know that’s not the end of the tale. It remains to be seen exactly how things are going to play out. Given the emotional gut punches we’ve had so far I feel like the existential robot angst will come to a conclusion. The fish never came back in the story because, well, it couldn’t and the boy deep down knew it couldn’t but that didn’t stop him wanting it to and believing it could. I hope the fish in this scenario is not El and yet I do wonder.

The art as usual also helps throw us around emotionally. There’s some great juxtaposed panels of Mateo speaking to Holly and explaining about telling El to go into his own place in his mind contrasted with El being brought down by the blasts of security in the lab. There’s been a page with just one panel of Mateo’s eyes, no dialogue in between the panels of Donnie about to shoot El and there’s a heck of an emotional impact.

The writing and art have always intertwined but by this point you can really appreciate the fact that one informs the other and they each work to give everything an emotional heft. The narration of the morality tales also bears a re-read when looking at the panels they are incorporated into. It’s good to have this extra level to things.

The penultimate issue of Hollow Heart sets up what is going to be a gut punching finale. This is a really emotional issue full of little details that build up into a heck of a pile of angst. I am eager to see what the conclusion will be and at the same time I am dreading the emotional fallout. Really that makes this book something of a success.

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