Acclaimed for his series in ComixTribe, Scottish comic horror writer John Lees creates a genuine sense of anxiety-driven dread in his new AWA series, Hotell. Reminiscent of classic EC Comics, Hotell manages to apply narrative sensibilities into an old serialized format.
AWA Studios’ pitch for Hotell is as follows:
You won’t find it on any map, but if you happen to be driving down Route 66 late at night and you’re truly desperate for shelter, sanctuary or secrecy, you might see a battered sign on the side of the road: The Pierrot Courts Hotel. – where many check in but few check out.
In the first page of almost every issue, the reader is engaged with the owner of The Pierrot Courts. It’s an unsettling narrative device that already brings a bit of unease to the reading experience as the reader tries to continue the comic book. Lees manages to always take our expectations about the comics medium’s traditions, and execute a simple twist on the premise that allows for an unrelenting sense of dread to consist throughout the reading of these four issues. As readers continue past the next issue, we learn that Lees managed to create a cohesive narrative thread whilst still taking proper advantage of the anthological principles of horror anthologies.
If it weren’t enough for Lees to invert the narrative familiarity of certain comic book narrative traditions, artist Dalibor Talajic wonderfully executes the gruesome oddity that is Pierrot Courts. Fascinatingly, Talajic manages to reuse panels and draw in such a way that each repeated image is brought along for a stronger context of what has been occurring within the narrative. Even more superior is Talajic’s ability to compose the composition into something that can at once be comforting, but also maintain this odd sense of unease within the reader through his visual language.
Colorist Lee Loughridge layers each page together with something that harkens back to the 1970s and ’80s in terms of that classic comics feel. Despite the dedication to that period of time, the colors still feel modern and visually complex as any other shelf on stands. Giving voice is the letterer Sal Cipriano, who layers in some unique trickery through their text boxes and word balloons presented on the page.
From the start of the book until its last page, Hotell consistently maintains an impressive level of unease. It’s spooky season, and if you’re looking to get into the Halloween spirit, you can’t go wrong with this excellently executed horror.
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