Issue #6 of Paul Allor’s and Paul Tucker’s Hollow Heart marks the final installment of the series, and the end to the stories of tragic cyborg, El, and his mechanic, Matteo. The series has been an exploration of queer intimacy in the technological age — how the body and technology have become respondent and sometimes indistinguishable sites of constitutive power.
Part human and part machine, El is a disjointed representation of organic matter and synthetic material. Hollow Heart invokes Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto, as it examines what Haraway describes as “the tradition of the reproduction of the self from reflections of the other — the relation between organism and machine…(as a)…border war” (Haraway, 2018: 8).
As a final issue, Hollow Heart #6 is heartbreaking. Allor and Tucker have never necessarily given the reader room to be optimistic for El. Every step towards their freedom from the tortuous biotechnological facility has been burdened by an ulterior motive. The revelation that their ‘escape’ was orchestrated as an experiment by the facility — with Matteo as a complicit actor — has been drawn out throughout the issues. As El pieced everything together, so did we. Yet, while the tragic fate of El is not a surprise, it is not any less upsetting. El’s story is pessimistically circular. The skepticism they had in humanity in issue #1 is only confirmed and solidified by issue #6. The use of color by Paul Tucker, here, is significant. The ongoing traversal across melancholy grays and blues, through to intense reds and oranges, maps El’s emotions over the course of the issue.
In tying together El with the subplots of Hollow Heart’s other major characters, Allor’s script is incredibly satisfying. As the fates of Holly, Sue, and Matteo converge, it is underlined that their ability to connect and be intimate with others is just as limited by the unnamed facility as El’s themself. Allor tests the limits of the reader’s empathy, as he dares us to pity each character upon their deaths. This is indeed a challenging task in the case of Sue, who has shown no redeemable traits throughout Hollow Heart. Holly’s death, however, is somewhat bittersweet. While previously as reprehensible as Sue, in the brief time that Holly had with her son and wife away from her job, it was shown that she was capable of loving her family. However, this is cut short by her determination to remain involved with the company. In Holly’s case, it is difficult to tell where her humanity ends, and where the soulless, corporate figure begins.
It is Matteo’s death, however, which is most emotionally contentious. Matteo undoubtedly betrayed El, and was as much a corporate actor as the rest of El’s adversaries. Yet, issue #6 makes it clear that Matteo cared for El, and helped them create a space for themself, just as he promised. The catch being that this space is metaphysical. In the end, this metaphysicality saves El from a life of torture. Matteo’s final act is allowing El an intimate life with a version of himself, away from the pain of physical reality.
The ending of Hollow Heart leaves the reader with El, living in their own constructed space with their own constructed Matteo. Tucker’s use of fire against black space makes the rest of the series feel like a reverberation from this imaginary point of origin. When the story briefly returns to the facility, we are reminded of how dull and plain the corporate space looks without El’s point of view. The series thus ends on the stifling notion that corporate violence exists in pursuit of intimacy— that it is a force that consumes the space around us.
Donna Haraway. (2018). A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. Victoria, British Columbia: Camas Books.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!