Advance Review – Hotell #1 (AWA Studios)

Publisher: AWA Studios
Writer: John Lees
Artist: Dalibor Talajić
Lettering: Lee Loughridge
Release Date: 18th March 2020

It’s not on any map, and you may have driven past it a hundred times without even noticing it’s there; but if you’re on Route 66 and you’re in need of sanctuary, desperate for shelter or looking for somewhere to hide from the world for a while, you may just see a dusty battered sign welcoming you to the Pierrot Courts Hotel. Much like the eponymous Hotel California though, you can check into the Pierrot Courts Hotel, but will you ever leave?

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been waiting to get my hands on a copy of this issue ever since I heard that John Lees was working on it. I’ve been as patient as I can but, the last couple of weeks have been torture, so it was like Christmas morning when I found a review copy in my inbox first thing this morning.

On my first pass of this issue, I was bombarded with parallels to other stories. The idea of a Director of Ceremonies introducing each new guest and providing a stage for their own personal story is not a new one, but it is a trope that, when done well, can be extremely effective. Immediate examples that jumped out for me were Uncle Creepy, Cousin Eerie, The Crypt Keeper, and my personal favourite, Max the computer from Scream comic’s the 13th Floor. As a compendium (?) horror series, I also immediately went to Creepshow, and there are certainly aspects of this issue that you could envisage as having come from the pen of Stephen King.

I have made no secret of the fact that I think John Lees is one of the best writers in the industry at the moment, and based on this issue of HOTELL, I think we’re in for more high-quality horror with his own particularly twisted view of the world imprinted on it. What I’ve admired about Lees since I started reading his work is how he can take something which, on the face of it, should be safe and familiar, and completely turn it on its head, making it something completely new and imbuing it with depth, tension and horror that you really didn’t imagine were possible.

This opening issue of this series is captivating, both in the story Lees is telling and in the artwork that Dalibor Talajić produces. Our host in this series is one Jack Lynch, who has a real Norman Bates meets Lloyd the Bartender feel about him. He even bears a strong resemblance to Joe Turkel who played the role in Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining. As charming as he may come across, you know deep down in your bones that there is something off about this guy, but you also know that despite this, his guests aren’t going to realise it until it’s way too late. I would also pay attention to our host’s surname as there are moments in this issue that are well and truly in the realms of David Lynch.

This issue focuses on Alice, a pregnant woman on the run from an abusive partner, in fear for the safety of her unborn child, a premise which immediately set the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. I’m sure I’m not alone, but since I’ve had children of my own I find horror stories that deal with children or pregnant women, so much more traumatic to deal with. However, this story has, as you’d expect from Lees, something of a twist. While staying at the hotel, Alice’s dreams of her unborn child start to become dark and sinister, her child urging her to commit terrible, terrible acts, culminating in an almost Lovecraftian denouement. And at this point, I cannot tell you any more without just walking you through each page, and I really don’t want to spoil it for you.

Dalibor Talajić, delivers in spades in this issue. The Pierrot Court Hotel is inviting and clean, the manager is welcoming and friendly, and this is all brought to life on the page in a way that has you perfectly at ease before things start to go sideways. When they do go sideways, Talajić delivers what I’m going to refer to as the Lynchian moments, in gloriously twisted and unsettling fashion, and there are some genuine jump scares in this issue that caught even a jaded horror fan like myself off-guard.

I have only one problem with this series, and that’s the fact that it’s only going to be a four-issue run. I know that Lees is perfectly capable of delivering something spectacular in such a short space of time, but I also think that in order to really see how far he can take this we really, really should be getting at least 8-12 issues (hint, hint).

Issue one of Hotell brings us a Lynchian, Lovecraftian, Stephen King(ian), horror series from one of the best writers in the industry, featuring some excellent artwork that really brings the whole thing to life in all its chilling, twisted glory.

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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