cover image The Burning Hotels

The Burning Hotels

Thomas Lampion. Birdcage Bottom, $10 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-73315-093-4

Lampion distinguishes his layered debut with dreamlike visuals and an offbeat edge. The narrative is framed in the present-day Covid-19 pandemic, where Lampion is unemployed and on disability, living with his mother near his hometown of Hot Springs, N.C. To cope with the global catastrophe and his isolation, he researches his family history and the places they’ve lived: “The future is so uncertain now all I have is the past.” He meditates on how history repeats itself: he and his mother each fled Hot Springs at age 18, only to be driven by dire circumstances to return 12 years later. He also examines his distant relationship with his father, as he muses: “Wondering how on earth this strange man could possibly be my dad.” Thwarted dreams of success are symbolized by three hotels: each a symbol of progress for Hot Springs in their time, all destroyed by fire—the third during the 1918 pandemic (“there went the town’s hope”). Lampion’s brushy art employs evocative imagery, such as the moss-covered ruins of the first hotel, as he mixes indie comics and manga influences, with ample use of Lichtensteinesque BenDay-dotted backgrounds. His lean narrative has an appealingly wandering quality, moving fluidly between past and present, and the intersecting forces of individual, familial, and communal instability. Art comics fans will want to take a look at this resonant work. [em](Nov.) [/em]