Hollow Heart #1 Review
Hollow Heart #1 is self-described as “A queer monster love story about the choices we make between giving our loved ones what they want and giving them what we think they need.”
The story is based around two leads: El and Mateo El is a former human turned collection of organs trapped in a bio-suit. The issue opens with El trying to escape not only the facility he is trapped in but the pain that has come to define his daily existence. Mateo is the technician assigned to repair El’s bio-suit. Mateo treats El with respect and as a person. Mateo offers to help El escape from his prison but to what means is to be discovered.
Hollow Heart #1
Written and Lettered by Paul Allor
Line Art and Colored by Paul Tucker
This is the first creator owned story I’ve read from Paul Allor. I first learned of his work back on IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I believe it was Turtles in Time mini-series). He is a deft writer who has a knack for finding personal moments and giving his characters’ emotional depth. That is absolutely true here in Hollow Heart. The series is described as about the “choice we make between giving our loved ones what they want and giving them what we think they need” and Allor explore the theme. While this is merely the first part of a longer story, this chapter we already see this with both El and Mateo. El wants sweet release of death. It is mercy that will end his painful existence. Mateo sees otherwise. He seems intent in helping El escape but live. To what extent this escape will be is still left in the air by the end of the issue, but it does pose interesting questions.
Throughout the story there is a narrator present. In one of these narrations, Allor draws parallels to the story unfolding. The narrations draw comparisons to a fish in a small tank and a small child trying to free fish by killing it. In this story, Mateo is the child trying to help El but not fully understanding what he is doing. He wants to help and will try to do so, but what will that require? These questions create an interesting and thought provoking read. These parallels use the comics medium to its strength and provides an enriching experience.
The characterization of El is sympathetic and humane. You feel for this being seemingly trapped in a state of undeath. His existence is pain, and he hates himself to the point death is the only escape. Allor’s narrations describe him as a being who is screaming and cannot be heard. The final line of the book posits a “world where everyone can scream and be heard”
I don’t normally comment on lettering (as it is not a strength in analysis beyond “It looks good”) but here it serves the narrative tone in a way that I cannot neglect it. Allor provides the letters here, as well, and they are equally interesting as the narrative. Such as El speaking in more artificial “ALL CAPS” dialog over the regular-cased thinner dialog as the other humans such as Mateo’s. It conveys this unnatural and cold sound to the character. El describes his voice in the issue as grating with synthesized timbre and the lettering helps sell this for the reader. It gives the reader a visual insight to the unnatural and artificial existence of El.
The art by Paul Tucker is visually distinct from most comics you will find on the shelf. Tucker’s style is almost 90’s Valiant in style. By that I mean a combination of a cartoony style with colors that utilizes gradients and hues within the spectrum to give this soft feel to the comic. The comic has an almost sketch like quality with the line work. It provides a more naturalistic look to the comic. I like this style especially for this book. It has a real intimate vibe which is befitting the romance story.
Tucker’s takes a character like El whose only form of visual emotion is through as skull in a helmet and manages to make you feel for this individual. El’s eyes speak volumes here in this issue and helps sell the chemistry between El and Mateo as well as El’s pain and suffering. It is truly a window for the character’s soul and leaves the reader empathizing for him. El may be a monster but he has a soul. This is critical for this comic to work. We need to feel for El and understand his pain and desires.
The layouts used throughout the story are well done and I want to commend the use of no borders on the panels. It creates a visually distinct look and makes for a clean looking page. There are moments where the Sound Effects themselves act as the panel frame and provides extra punch. Overall design work on Hollow Heart is wonderful.
Hollow Heart #1 is a strong start for this series. The romance story is building and is convincing. Allor provides an interesting world and stellar character work that is supported by the art style of Tucker. Together they create a great package and one well worth the read.
Final Score 8.5/10