“The Hollows” #1 – Multiversity Comics

“The Hollows” #1 – Multiversity Comics

A few people will survive in large tree cities high above the rest of the population, which could lead to a miserable existence on Japan’s surface.

Sam Kieth covers

Chris Ryall wrote this article
Illustrated & Colored by Sam Kieth
Robbie Robbins – Lettered

Horrifying radioactive, once-human creatures known as “the hollows” who’s sole purpose is to devour the souls of any unlucky resident of the Tokyo. The great tree cities are safe and well-informed. Only one man is allowed to venture below.

Craig is a scientist. He cannot stop building, studying and exploring. He says it’s all for the greater good and that his work helps those living in his tree city. However, it only takes supplies and takes time away from his family. Until he meets a special young lady.

“The Hollows” is an interesting release that almost feels like an experiment in today’s comic industry. It is also confusing to learn the background of this comic. It was originally created as a web comic 10 years ago. IDW published it in a miniseries of four issues. Image Comics re-published the comic as a 100 page remastered single-shot. Essentially a graphic novel, this wild sci-fi book is completed by an art style that looks purposefully fast, loose, incomplete, and untrained; there’s something completely modern and delightfully retro about the entire design of the book and its plot. “The Hollows” is a classic story of adventure, social class, and morality set within a dark future. This dark future is both based on the dystopia nightmares of science fiction and on supernatural forces that are as destructive as anything mankind has done to it. This book is a great cultural blend of Japanese and sci-fi. It’s like mythical cyberpunk and it is going to speak to a lot of comic book and manga readers, while testing the aesthetic tastes of many a reader.

As for the overall look, “The Hollows” is born from the same kind of spirit that has brought us some of the best independent works of the last 40+ years. With artist Sam Kieth (“The Maxx”) co-creating this book, it feels like something my dad and I would have found at a shop when I was a kid in the early 90s. The art is shaky and gonzo, with a similar interest and intention, but they are determined to appear as though they don’t care if the end product is compatible with their comics. It is amazing to be able to find pages and panels that are beautiful and some that are downright ugly. But, it is also fascinating to enjoy the ride. It takes a lot of effort, and guts, to sell a book that’s so elegantly disheveled, to borrow a term from Max Bemis. The illustrations’ line work is often not up to sketchbook level. Character designs change not only from one page to the next, but also from panel to panel. It’s a nightmare for sequential art. As someone who has never been able master continuity in their artwork, it is refreshing to see this book by Image. The use of color is muted. It appears that the colors were created with a mixture of colored pencils as well as watercolor paint. The final product sells that look regardless of whether those were the mediums used. Even though Kieth isn’t looking polished, he knows exactly what he wants.

There have been stories for as long as there has been history. These explorers have always been trying to help people through discovery. Craig has moved out of his home to find supplies, as he does in many stories. But he doesn’t often think of those who are struggling below. He is hardly aware of them. It’s a classic story of someone being torn straight down the middle; wanting to stay home with their loving family, but knowing they MustReturn to this other location. To experience something new and be with its people. Even if it isn’t better, it’s different and they want to get away and explore. Ryall’s script is tight, but so typical that it tends to read even faster because if you’ve read any sci-fi like this before you know where it’s going as you read it. Although I believe the intentions are right, there is a touch of white-saviorism in Craig’s script. He (spoilers), was a key player in Japan’s destruction and creation of the hollows. Craig is married to a Japanese lady, and there are a few characters who are Japanese. But the characters that we really care about and follow are all Caucasian. A blending of cultures has been a hallmark of sci-fi stories in the future. What doesn’t work in this story is that while a few races are shown, there is no sense of togetherness or blending; even within Craig’s family. He feels more than just physically separated from them as he flies through the city. It is only a half-swing.

This project has a lot of things to love and enjoy. Although it covers timeless themes, the story can feel a little dated. The same goes for the art. While I appreciate large creative swings more than anyone, there are still a few things that need to be done after an assessment from top to bottom. I love that it doesn’t play it safe, but there are pages that simply feel unfinished rather than stylized. It is too many stories and not enough for one release format. This experiment is not totally successful, and being a re-release drains a lot of the fanfare out of the release, but it is still an interesting artifact that will, I’m sure, find a new audience today.

Final Verdict:5.0. Craig-san is a great storyteller, but the story ends up landing on a few billboards.

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