Written by John Lees
Art by Dalibor Talajic
Colored by Lee Loughridge
Cover by Karen Andrews
Harkening back to horror anthologies such as The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt, Hotell appears to be a collection of self-contained stories with a common setting, that of the Pierrot Courts. However, knowing writer John Lees, there is no doubt an overarching mythology at work.
Like its vintage forebearers, the series comes complete with a “Cryptkeeper” to introduce the first issue. And what a first issue it is. The reader is plunged headlong into the story, meeting protagonist Alice and learning of her desperate flight from the father of her unborn child. But what she finds waiting for her at Pierrot Courts may be even worse.
Talajic’s art is – dare I say – perfect for this kind of story. There’s a visceral roughness to the linework that lends the book a tactile feel. Backgrounds are cleanly rendered and spare, allowing the focus to remain on the characters. The cast are not the ideals found in superhero comics; instead, they wear the faces of people you’d meet on the street. Their everyday appearance makes the moments of terror all the more plausible. Loughridge’s inspired palette is restricted to muted tones, which further grounds the series.
With surgical precision and no wasted scenes, Lees carves out a story that will haunt your nightmares. The horror in Hotell leans more on the psychological side as opposed to a gorefest. Bleeding nipples and eyes in toilets make for ghastly scenes but what makes them terrifying is the symbolism behind them. The horror is framed through Alice’s eyes. This creative choice helps engender great empathy for the dangers experienced daily by vulnerable women. Alice is threatened with loss of control over her body, her reproductive system, even her mind. Lees proves that fiction can be retro without being regressive.