Review: Sentinel #14 Heartbreak Spotel
How about a return to the best modern 64-page digest format comic, for a Fawlty Towers inspired crime caper with a few familiar faces in impeccable ink-heavy psychedelic outlaw-tinted black and white art? Sentileers rejoice and Huzzah! For issue 14, Heartbreak Spotel by Alan Holloway and Paul Spence.
Currently on Kickstarter and euphorically already fully funded (though definitely deserving of more), Sentinel is back for a new issue. Sentileers will know it hasn't been very long since their last outing (The Pack, which was thoroughly enjoyed), but there was a small hiatus for the important, well-delivered, touching, successful tribute to Dave "Bolt-01" Evans (another thoroughly enjoyed comic). Due to my own struggles, it has been a good while since I last could reacquaint myself and join the legion of Sentileers, but what a fortuitous issue to jump back on board with, as this one takes inspiration from and captures the essence of one of my top five television shows in Fawlty Towers.
To non-Sentileers, though, let's remind ourselves about these creators. Alan Holloway is the lord of the digest format whose storytelling, which never disappoints, has spanned the majority of Sentinel issues. As co-creator of Sentinel and a highly skilled writer, Alan has entertained with enjoyable comics across a diverse range of concepts and genres, from surprise mould-breaking superhero stories to dinosaurs and Vikings. Even Ray Harryhausen with everything in between.
Paul Spence is a brilliant artist known to Sentileers for his astounding art on Sentinel issue 3, "A Fare To Remember". Epically, this new issue features the same universe, but we'll get to that in just a second. Paul also featured in the silly fun of Crackpot #1, both of which I highly recommend.
So, let's start with the art. Paul Spence is my favourite Sentinel artist with his fun, punk-outlaw style in heavy ink. Paul's art is full of fevered imagination, evocative of the great Massimo Beladinelli for character design and set pieces. Paul's art comes with the bonus of action and creatures that occupy the margins. It reminds me of the Giles cartoons, where there are always some small boys and girls getting up to mischief, but obviously with sci-fi critters occupying the space. It's a great element with this laudable art without distracting from the main plot.
There are entertaining sidebars that are well worth studying and full of chuckles. There's no one else in indie comics bringing this much style and flair to imaginative alien design and sci-fi happenings, making this art one to take your time with.
Going back to the sublime character design, it's lovely to see a return of Snork, the now officer, once assassin thwarting cab driver with a mysterious past. I am fully enamoured by Paul's art. The heavy ink style is definitely my bag.
Finally, and it may not be all Paul or all Alan, but whoever is responsible for the ideas behind easter eggs like the car that's had "a damn good thrashing", the Python knotted handkerchief headwear and cameos of Sentinels finest, to name but a few, deserves praise and admiration for tying up this sumptuous package of Sentinel art to savour. A fun bonus for this comic comes courtesy of Starblazer comics cover maestro Keith Robson. It's a cracking oil painting and a great way to own a copy of Keith's art that shouldn't be missed.
Storytime, then, and Heartbreak Spotel is another Alan Holloway hit for me. I mean, Sentileers will know just how super, smashing, blummen brilliant his storytelling is. This is mine and Ben's new favourite Sentinel issue, though, as it triumphs with unashamed inspiration from one of the great British comedy TV shows.
The pillar of Fawlty Towers and its inspiration comes from a hotel proprietor with astronomical levels of dissent for his own profession. And Heartbreak Spotel, with Mr Lionel Lobsang, takes it intergalactic. This comic heavily leans into its inspiration and pulls off a refreshing take while lovingly paying homage.
Alan captures a perfect cadence and heart in the dialogue that would happily suit Basil and co in a BBC sitcom delivery. All while being full of bonkers, hilarious sci-fi. Alan's story is a touch of class, building a crime caper story worth celebrating more than any wedding party with plenty to inspect in this hotel with a gourmet serving of fun, enjoyable storytelling. Apologies for the terrible shoehorning of episode names displayed there, but it was the best I could do. Ahem!
Overall, Heartbreak Spotel is a cracking read. Fawlty Towers dressed in a sci-fi crime caper is an irresistible draw executed perfectly and full of everything you could hope for. It's also really interesting to see the return of the Snork - a character from A Fare To Remember, as the end of that Sentinel issue hinted at there being a lot more to this affable character, and this is Snork's perfect sequel. In fact, I'm all for more Snork.
For Sentileers and fans of Fawlty Towers, sci-fi, Eek bugs, wayward toddlers, crawling through air-ducts, creatures in the margins, Monty Python's Gumby's without the moustache, the "King of Rock & Roll" bookended crime capers with double-crosses in a hotel outside of all jurisdiction, and Snork, in black and white, super stylised Digest formatted art, then you really want to get on board Sentinel issue 14 Heartbreak Spotel.
To get your copy, there's only one place to rush to, and that's the Heartbreak Spotel Kickstarter to back this hilarious issue. It's closing in on its final two weeks, so run, don't walk to get in on this action. Rewards start for as little as £2 for digital copies. That's an absolute steal, and at that price, you're getting away with more than Fang and Foom. For more and all things Sentinel, check out Alan Holloway's Instagram (@sentinelcomicuk), Facebook thesentinelcomic and Twitter @Sentinel_Comic. You can also see more of Paul Spence on Instagram at @paul_spence1964.
Rating: A completely excellent 5+/5