Vacancy, along with many of Lee's works, explores the ways that animals think; how they may internalise their changing environment and express their thoughts, fears or excitement.
Jen Lee was born in Manhattan but grew up in a beach town in Florida. Lee started to draw and make stories in elementary school; they were usually about animals. Lee studied at the School of Visual Arts in NYC for a BFA in illustration, whilst also taking classes in comics, graphic design, and writing. After graduation she picked up a job in graphic design/marketing with a software company. Lee currently freelances in a farmhouse out of Idaho, some of her clients include Drop Dead Clothing, Burton, Boom! Studios, and Nickelodeon. Her work is influenced by artists such as Marc Boutavant, Dave Cooper and Andrei Tarkovsky.
Vacancy is adorable but sad, with masterful and compelling
storytelling [...] Lee tells a sweet and sad story that could
symbolize a lot of different moments in life. [...] I'm certain
readers will project any number of feelings and experiences onto
this story, which gives it both a universal appeal and an added
weight. [...] she [Lee] is an incredibly talented cartoonist and I
hope that future endeavors include some fascinating work in both
print and digital.
Author-artist Jen Lee's detail and attentiveness in this aspect
is a pleasure to behold; fashion is a facet that's too often
overlooked and underused in comics. [...] Vacancy (Nobrow Press) is
a beautiful looking book in general; Lee's use of color and shape
is gorgeous and evocative. The sense of emptiness and uneasy quiet
she conjures is almost absolute--the broken landscape a constant
background even as the inherent beauty of the natural environment
offers its own deceptive juxtaposition. You can choose what to
--The AV Club Lee's iconic character design and use of eye-catching color is just as good on paper as it is on screen.
--Mental Floss Lee is a gifted artist, and Vacancy highlights her skill. [...] The strong artwork and quick story line make this slim volume best for die-hard graphic novel fans in upper elementary and middle school.
--School Library Journal Changing colors evoke mood, and tight, small panels feature fluid, moving characters, showing the influence of modern animation and a feeling similar to the work of Kazu Kibuishi. More than just a cute animal comic, this is a parable about establishing comfort zones and the dangers of breaking them.
--Publishers Weekly It's a beautiful book both in terms of its storytelling and well as its craft. Lee's use of color is breathtaking [...] Lee's world-building is as dynamic a character as her anthropomorphic heroes
--Comics Bulletin Fables of making it in the big, wide, dangerous world have been done before, but perhaps never so pleasing to the eye as with this short effort by Jen Lee. [...] Lee's art is colorful and frenetically-paneled, bringing out the desperate nature of the action scenes, and well capturing the frantic emotions of the clueless companions. [...] Vacancy reveals the movement inherent in her work on the page.
--Vermicious As her first print comic, it carries the moody palette and feeling of uneasy movement of her online work.
--Hyperallergic Lee is able to still take advantage of the print format in ways that don't work as well online. The weight of the paper, the way color is used, the page layouts... it's not just a webcomic that's been printed, but a comic that's been designed for print.
--Freaksugar Lee's character design is sort of like a cuter Michael DeForge, but still containing a hint of danger and visceral animal behavior.
--Rob Clough The narrative rides these emotional rails to great affect, and you never feel safe from this sense of restless dread that serves as VACANCY's emotional core. [...] VACANCY feels personal for Lee. There's a palpable sense of anxiety here, a nervous energy that's difficult to conceive of, let alone approximate, if you've never felt it yourself. [...] there's a deep, abiding pathos in those abstracted faces. It's a book that is essentially about being comfortable in your own skin, and it's about the journeys we sometimes have to go on to assume that comfort for ourselves. [...] VACANCY is rooted in optimism. Its dystopia is one limited to the now, and it's a story about how we learn that it doesn't define the future--if we don't let it.
--This Is Infamous Vacancy by Jen Lee is a dystopian story about the sometimes opposing needs for safety and companionship. [...] Lee's style is bold and the action leaps through the graphic frames. It speaks not just to the fears of survival but a deep fear of isolation.
--Joy Corcoran The artwork is wonderful. The linework is clean and detailed and the characters designs really look like modern children with their fashion and style... but they're animals.
-Comic Bastards I applaud her for using a deer as one of the troublemakers.
--Topless Robot [Jen Lee's] art combines qualities that are both eerie and cute, which helps define both the uneasy & disturbing world, but also the strength of the friendships blooming amidst disaster. And that, in short, is just plain cool!
--The Comic Age