Words, Story & Letters: Paul Allor
Pictures, Lines, Colours & Covers: Paul Tucker
Those looking for a definitive ending to El and Matteo’s tale may be disappointed by this last issue. Here we dispense with the stories and the metaphors, it’s just the sheer rawness of El and Matteo’s story. It’s a world where drama and reality are blurred together and it’s unclear in the end which one wins out. Really though that’s what this book has been about all along. It’s been about how reality can be changed, if it can be changed and what it is that makes a monster.
When last we left El and Matteo the latter had helped subdue the former believing this would help. El himself is lost in a world beyond even dreams. Those moments are tender and precious and heart-breaking as they can never reflect the reality of the world El and Matteo really exist in. The threats have never gone away, the answers still don’t exist. There is but one last sacrifice to be made and even that may not be enough.
It seems unfair that such things are out of reach but I think back to the first issue, to the story of the goldfish and going out into the woods. That really set the tone for what this is. Matteo wanted to set his goldfish free but he realised too late the implications of his actions. Every story we have been told in previous issues illustrates the existential problem. That there are no easy freedoms, that people are monsters and that sometimes the only happiness we have isn’t the reality we know.
Throughout we’ve always known that endings aren’t always happy. That monsters can be created but that after that they cannot be turned back as the very forces that created them push the monsters into doing the very acts that make them monsters. What is heart-breaking is that Matteo tried so hard to break this cycle, to allow El, the monster he loved, enough freedom to get beyond the monstrousness others had forced El to take on.
The art is really compelling. There’s some panels at the start of the book that finally show us the tenderness and love that clearly exists between El and Matteo and it makes it seem as real as El feels it is. It’s just really nicely done when it could have looked strange, odd or even salacious. It isn’t. It’s just two people in love or the depiction of two people in love in a space that only exists in a pocket of El’s mind. Still it’s satisfying to see what we’ve known is true all along.
The art highlights everything about El’s nature and Matteo’s love. It’s visually depicted. Even the pages of blackness have something to tell us. Everything about the art is so deliberate and clear. And it’s always interesting. The angles and perspectives on the characters, the scenes and their actions give the kind of disjointed reality feeling that really helps replicate the feeling of El and the world he finds himself in. The art itself helps you relate to the characters.
The end is perhaps the only one there could be. What I would like though is for El to find happiness for just a little while. Even monsters deserve a chance to rest. Whilst I wouldn’t say no to more Hollow Heart in a way this is how the story needs to end, without a firm end. El proved he had deep human emotions and emotions linger long after the last page is read. The ending really reflects that and as a reader fully experience it.
Hollow Heart has been a journey of emotion the whole way through. It’s been very worth it to go through this journey with these characters. I wish I could come up with a clever metaphor about goldfish or letters or music or something else to end this review on but I feel like ending it the way this issue ended the story, without any of that. This was a moving, angst ridden book that bears re-reading. I’ll revisit this book again. In the meantime it feels like leaving those characters to the world inside where there’s just a little bit of hope of a future away from pain.