By Sarah Miller
Even though it’s the cutest thing I’ve read so far this year, Hero Hotel pulls no punches when it comes to showing the rude behaviour of superheroes on vacation. And they all want to relax at Hero Hotel, run by Grandma Zee and her staff, who must deal with the taxing personalities of superheroes who are taking a break from saving the world. While all the staff members interact with the lazy superheroes, Chet, the concierge, and Boomer, his cat and best bud, bear the brunt of their demands, and they even have to save the hotel from supervillains when the superhero guests refuse to lift a finger. (What else would you expect from superheroes on vacation?)
Chet and Boomer were sent to Hero Hotel because Chet kept getting into trouble whenever he tried to help anyone out. Putting a jacket down over a puddle so a lady won’t get her feet wet? Charged with littering. Helping an old woman cross the street? Charged with jaywalking. It seems Chet can’t get a break, and his experience at Hero Hotel is no different. The never-ending requests of the superheroes are depicted in a spread at the beginning of the book that emphasizes their overwhelming petty needs. The pool is too hot. The pool is too cold. You’ve run out of this. I didn’t order that. My steak wasn’t properly done. Chet can’t win when it comes to satisfying the desires of his clients.
But he can win when it comes to defeating the supervillains who plague Hero Hotel with devious schemes designed to take out several superheroes at once—it’s just that he never gets any credit for it. This is a motif that is repeated throughout the work: Chet and Boomer saving the hotel from destruction only for them to be blamed because they are late for work or their uniforms are dirty. While each repetition brings new circumstances and new jokes, the gag itself nearly becomes tiresome before we reach the climax of the story. It is saved, however, by the clever interspersion of mini-stories about the other characters and “movie posters” for the superheroes who populate this world. Each cheeky full-page spread of a superhero comes complete with a tagline that summarizes their characteristics and depicts them in the most heroic light, providing a contrast with their appearance and behaviour while they’re slacking off on vacation.
The big question in this story is whether or not Chet and his fellow hotel staff will be able to save the hotel when a boycott is called for by Rear Admiral Planet. The superheroes blindly follow the boycott in spite of all the work that Chet and his coworkers have done for them over the years, leaving the hotel in danger of bankruptcy. This David-and-Goliath story with a clumsy-yet-plucky protagonist is one we’ve all seen before, but it’s told here with a certain freshness that just barely saves it from twee-ness. I won’t ruin the ending here, but you can probably all guess what it is.
The other big question—and the one that leaves Hero Hotel open to sequels—is whether or not Chet will join the dark side, uniting with Swampocalypse and freeing him from his exile in the Netherswamp. This is the most interesting story line in the work, though I don’t believe it gets the air time that it deserves. Why will Chet turn bad? Will he become the supervillain that Swampocalypse claims he will be? I wish there had been more time devoted to questioning whether Chet would turn bad, and to Gator Gilly, the daughter of Swampocalypse, who is tasked with observing and reporting on Chet’s actions. She is a more interesting character than she is given credit for, and would have been a rich source of dilemma if tapped for her full potential.
The artwork is clean and slick, its cute style well done, but I found it lacks depth and a certain challenge that I prefer. I want something that will have me staring at the pages for minutes at a time. Perhaps this is what you’re looking for, however: a style that is consistent and consistently easy to digest, that allows the reader to roll along through the pages, focusing more on story than on art. Don’t get me wrong. The art suits the story, which is as straightforward as the line work, and I would gladly read this to my children (if I had any), though I wouldn’t hold it up as a paragon of the kind of indie comics that are available today.
If you’re looking for a cute little read, this is it; if you’re looking for something with depth that is artistically challenging, keep looking. I enjoyed this work for what it is, which is an entertaining, if forgettable, little story, but I won’t be reading it again and again. Your mileage may vary, however.
Writer/Artist: Yehudi Mercado
Colorist: Alessandro Alessi Anghini
Publisher: Fanbase Press