BY MATT TUCK
Frankie’s Reviews: X-Men #18 and Dark Detective #4 were entertaining if not average stories, while Vault has the beginnings of a heartfelt hit with Hollow Heart #1.
HOLLOW MAN #1
Written by Paul Allor
Art by Paul Tucker
Hollow Heart is the latest from independent publisher Vault. The story puts a twist on the man-made monster tropes and is an overall success.
Think of this as a futuristic version of The Shape of Water. Personally, I was not overly impressed with Shape of Water, despite it winning the Oscar for best picture in 2018. On the other hand, I did enjoy the first issue of this comic, which borrowed thematically from that particular film.
What the story is really about, at least in issue #1, is the different meanings of love. In Hollow Heart, we are introduced to El. In true Robocop fashion, El is the remains of a human turned into a cyborg. Whether that is with or without his consent, we do not know. Although we are not outright told El’s backstory just yet, Allor alludes to the idea that the facility where he is being held claims the lives of those on the brink of death and resurrects them as human/machine hybrids.
The artwork lacked depth in the human characters, but Tucker’s work shined in his pencils and colors on El. He gives the skull inside the helmet emotive orbital sockets that tug at your heart every time you see him.
Circling back, this story is about love, but not in just one sense. On one hand, we have Mateo, an engineer who is tasked with repairing El’s suit. Even through the smallest acts of kindness, he has reached the soul of the beast. This is juxtaposed with Mateo outside the facility, a lonely man looking for romantic love wherever he can find it. That desire to love and be loved is what drives the story in Hollow Heart #1, and it appears Allor has much to say on the subject.
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Mahmud Asrar
For all intents and purposes, this was your average X-Men comic.
It has the sense of mystery and world building that has become the staple of Hickman’s X-Men run, and it is clearly one part to a much larger puzzle. While there is nothing bad about the story, it did not leave me on the edge of my seat at the conclusion, either.
This issue focused on Synch, who can, as he puts it, be a “literal backup for...extra surveillance and survival.” Along with him on the reconnaissance mission is Darwin, the often overlooked X-Man whose power is an evolutionary adaptation to any situation, and Wolverine X-23. There is even some awkward flirting between Darwin and a less-than-enthusiastic Laura Kinney.
Throughout the comic, we see Darwin mold and change to the circumstances with his narration driving the story. The three of them have been tasked with entering the secretive Vault and getting hold of its “sense record of events.” As you would expect, things go awry and things get brutal and entertaining. By the end, we get some action and a cliffhanger ending.
The trouble is, I didn’t feel vested in this story. I was not attached to the three main characters, and that may have been because the stakes are low. This is comics, so the threat of death is a hollow one at that. As much I have appreciated Hickman’s run on the series, this was not his best work on an individual comic, but I refrain from passing final judgment until the entire portrait is revealed.
FUTURE STATE DARK DETECTIVE #4
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Art by Dan Mora
The last issue of Dark Detective saw the meeting of two Batmen. On one side was Bruce Wayne, presumed dead and functioning as a low-budget Dark Knight without the fancy tools of his trade. On the other, we find Tim Fox, the Next Batman. The two get acquainted with some punches thrown, and it resulted in superb storytelling.
This issue focused on Bruce’s quest to unseat the Magistrate, the private police force terrorizing Gotham while secretly spying on the city’s every breath. In a way, it feels like the predecessor to Judge Dredd’s Mega City One.
Bruce uses his technological knowhow to manipulate the Magistrate’s drones while recruiting a mole inside the organization. He meets his foes head-on in standard Batman fashion, and they have a rooftop clash as bombs are exploding. It made for a good visual, but the story was nothing I had never read before. Then again, it would have been tough for any issue to follow Dark Detective #3.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.