Advance Review – Hotell #2 (AWA Studios)

Publisher: AWA Studios
Writer: John Lees
Artist: Dalibor Talajić
Colours: Lee Loughridge
Lettering: Sal Cipriano
Release Date: 17th June 2020

Muriel Stansfield thinks she’s on a romantic getaway, cruising Route 66 in secret with her husband under the guise of a business trip. Bobby however, is dissatisfied with his wife, and while she thinks they are on a romantic getaway, he is plotting her murder. In need of a break from the road, the Stansfields find themselves at the Pierrot Courts Hotel and while exploring the grounds of the hotel, Bobby finds what he believes is the perfect solution to his problems in a mysterious lake in a wooded area that their enigmatic host has specifically advised them to avoid. Bobby soon discovers however, that ‘till death do us part doesn’t have quite the same meaning at the Pierrot Courts Hotel.

If there’s one thing you can rely on it’s that John Lees will always find new ways to raise the bar, and will always try to surprise and horrify you in new and interesting ways. The first surprise for me in this issue is that Muriel and Bobby’s story is linked to that of our protagonist from the first issue, obviously by location but also within the same time frame and narrative, which brings a whole new depth to this series. If nothing else, this revelation sent me straight back to issue #1 to look for clues about what might be coming next.

Once again, the basic themes and tropes of this series aren’t new or original, but the skill with which John Lees writes his narrative is what elevates his stories way above the competition. On the face of it, this is very much another story in a Tales From The Crypt or Creepshow format, but Lees manages to deliver a dark, chilling story that, while it takes you down a familiar road, certainly adds a few interesting twists, and shocks that mark it as something special. Lees has a talent for really reaching into the dark places in his characters and bringing them out into the cold light of day, and the characters in Hotell are no exception. Mr. Lynch remains enigmatic with an almost benign malevolence reminiscent of Gene Wilder’s take on Willy Wonka. Muriel and Bobby however start off at opposite ends of the spectrum – Muriel full of light and hope and Bobby full of darkness and murderous intent. The events of their night at the Pierrot Court, however, swiftly turns the hunter into the hunted and the predator into the prey.

Dalibor Talajić and Lee Loughridge continue to produce great artwork for this series. Where the last issue was significantly more Lynchian, this issue plays more to the old EC Horror comics and draws more on the likes of Richard Corben, Bernie Wrightson, Stephen Bissette, and Rick Veitch. Obviously this is a more contemporary take on the genre, but I think that the way they frame it, in a form that is familiar and comfortable, really helps deliver Lees’ chills and thrills that much more effectively.

I’d also like to apologise to Sal Cipriano who provides the lettering on this issue, and who I neglected to mention in my review of issue #1. While most of what Cipriano is providing for this issue is relatively standard, if very clean and neat text, there are some nicely thought out sound effects that help to reinforce the drama and tension of some of the scenes.

Another great issue from a great creative team and I’m really looking forward to seeing what issue #3 has in store for us.

Rating: 4/5.

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

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