Review by Frank Plowright
There was once a team of teenage superheroes. They dealt with a threat and went their separate ways because, frankly, they didn’t like each other very much. Then, years later there was another reason for them to come together, and another falling out. Find out all about it in Apocalypse Suite and Dallas. You’d be well advised to read them first otherwise so little about Hotel Oblivion will make sense.
Back so soon? In one sense this is more of the same from Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. However, since more of the same encompasses life, the universe and everything shot through with high concept ideas and seemingly random weirdness that coalesces into sense by the end, that’s no bad thing. Where to start? Perhaps with the hotel of the title actually being a supposedly inescapable prison, to which the team’s enemies are consigned, its very purpose prompting escape attempts. Time has moved on and there are a few chapters catching up on old friends, and making some new ones, some purposes crystal clear, others murky.
As ever, Bá’s art is stylish and kinetic, bringing out the wonder of a fast-paced story straddling several genres. There’s some SF, some crime, superhero battles, and deep, disturbing emotional trauma, and he’s the full-on magician who delivers it all. The one slight misgiving is Nick Filardi’s colouring at times resembling the kid let loose with the paintbox, distracting from the story rather than progressing it smoothly.
Because there are so many wonders to dissect in Hotel Oblivion it’s hardly a great spoiler to reveal that what eventually ties everything together is a massive jailbreak. Way doesn’t bother to name all the escapees, but Bá interprets Way’s designs so well that they all intrigue. even if only seen for a few panels. Superhero battles are superhero battles, and despite the novelty of the characters and some surprises, the final chapter is the least interesting, although the actual ending is great.
Despite supplying a full jolt of excitement and surprises, it may be unsatisfying that Way leaves several personal issues unresolved by the end. Depending on your view that’ll either be frustrating, or signify that it may take some time, but there are more Umbrella Academy stories to be told.