Hollow Heart #1 is heavy. It promises a story of pain — of silent pain endured — and it drags you down hard from the moment it begins. It’s not without some sliver of hope within the despair it presents though, as the once-man, now mostly machine named EL finds a connection with a lonely mechanic named Mateo who offers EL a path to freedom.
Hollow Heart #1
Paul Allor (writer, letterer), Paul Tucker (artist)
February 17, 2021
“Imagine a world where everyone can scream and be heard.”
The story opens with a chase down a bare, clinical hallway. An armed security officer is running after a much larger being in a mechanical suit. Over their actions are the words of a story told of a young boy with a fish in a bowl much too small for it to exist. The soft imagery of the fish and the boy juxtaposed against the violence makes the connection no less clear as we quickly come to understand who is the more dangerous being of the two. It also becomes clear that there is a lot more to their cat and mouse game, and it’s certainly not a game that is new to them.
From there, we meet Mateo, the mechanic who will repair the damage caused to EL and his suit in the failed escape attempt. It’s the first time the two are meeting, but their connection is instantaneous. Maybe it’s because I just finished watching season three of Star Trek Discovery that I am so attuned to the theme of connections, but the symbolism in Hollow Heart #1 is pretty overt, from the chapter title, “Tether,” to the many other physical and emotional connections discussed and depicted.
The theme of pain is also a major focus. Donnie, the guard from the beginning, has reasons for his brutality. Mateo knows pain through loneliness, and fears physical pain. And EL endures all of his pain in silence. Paul Tucker captures all of this acutely in the eyes of each character. Dark lines and sweeping swaths of muted, sometimes watery colours paint the scenes, but it’s Tucker’s expressively drawn eyes that drive the story along and enhance the depths of hurt and hope the characters experience.
On a technical note, as writer and letterer, Paul Allor works some simple magic with the lettering in a scene where Matteo prompts EL out of silence to reveal that he does not like to speak because he does not like the sound of his voice. The font and colours change here to reflect this as Allor also describes EL’s voice in the character’s own words. The result turns a visual story into an aural one as well, as the sound of EL’s subsequent words manifest in my mind as the reader.
There’s a lot still to know about EL’s story — what he’s running from, what he hopes to find, and how the other characters will fit within it all — but Tucker and Allor have laid strong, emotional groundwork in this first issue.