Updated: Jul 12, 2021
Writer: Ryan O'Sullivan Art: Andrea Mutti Publisher: Vault Comics
This review only covers the first 2 issues. Because of that, we don't have insight into the full story arc, so this review might look a little different than my other ones of entire volumes.
WHAT IS IT?
A kind of modern retelling of Dante's Inferno if Dante were replaced by a self-righteous, hack writer with delusions of grandeur.
It feels like a classic "in too deep" adventure story if it were narrated over by a con artist. Or a fantasy/horror version of Memento.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
There's another world, and it's filled with our fears. Each generation, The Muse comes to our world in search of the greatest storyteller of the time, whose creative mind battles these fearsome beings in their world, the Fearscape. But when The Muse mistakes our protagonist, Henry Henry, for the greatest writer of the current generation, we get the sinking feeling that this could go very badly for him...and for the world he's supposed to save.
This first issue mostly introduces us to Henry Henry, who is insufferable in the best kind of way. His self-obsessed narration holds up a mirror not only to Those Kinds Of Writers, but also to the smug, over-confident, under-accomplished white males we so often encounter in subreddits and comments sections. But in reading his words, a part of us also cringes -- or maybe I'm just speaking to my own reaction as a writer or as an over-confident, under-accomplished white male, myself. (Granted, I'm a yeti with a comics blog, so that's an accomplishment, I suppose!)
Henry makes for a strangely charming, if unreliable, narrator as he leaves out details he thinks are unimportant to us, fails to put his finger on those details that are important, and changes his mind on his own descriptions, trashing characters he had just complimented mere panels or pages earlier. He’s an anti-hero in an untraditional sense — playing the fool more than the villain. That’s not to say he’s a good guy: He objectifies women, cuts down others to make himself feel smarter or better, and we watch in delight as his lying and posturing wrap him up in events that we know he is not prepared for. But maybe we’re not giving him enough credit. After all, he’s the hero of this story, and if he had no survival instincts or redeeming qualities, it would be a very short, dull story. And so, by the end of this first issue, we’re enrapt, watching as Henry Henry enters the Fearscape, a place where all our fears are very real and powerful things. All that we can do is root for our protagonist; he may not be perfect, or even likable, but he’s ours. And so, in the second issue, we watch as he gets himself into trouble. He encounters more of the Fearscape, filling the pages with his own narrative where he oscillates between talking himself up and talking trash on the Muse or the stupidity of the Fearscape and its rules. On the rare page where he doesn't try to impress us by spinning his own own situation so we look upon him favorably, the story grows, and we're reminded of the dire situation he's in. The tone becomes less silly, less comedic, and turns back toward the horror genre you'd think would accompany a title of "FEARSCAPE."
You'll also get some reveals in this second issue that set the hook for the story and will keep you coming back for more. But even just two issues in, this is one of my favorite ongoing comics right now. It's so much fun to read and study and pick apart, like a fine piece of art.
I can't wait to see where the story goes.
O'Sullivan's story and characterization here are phenomenal, something to be studied for the intentions behind his choices and mined for meaning -- it's a true pleasure to read
Mutti's art is ethereal, almost dreamlike when combined with Vladimir Popov's colors, and feels inspired by classic fantasy illustrations
There's a certain sadistic joy in watching a jerk like Henry get himself into a world of trouble
You know that feeling as you're going up the initial slope of a roller coaster? That's what these first issues feels like.
Deron Bennett's lettering is on-point, and certain caption placements yield results that not only further characterize Henry Henry, but will also make you laugh out loud
It's fascinating imagining the story without Henry's narration -- how we might give more credit to him, and how it may seem so much more like a traditional adventure story
What makes Henry Henry so cringeworthy is that he reminds us of ourselves
He complains when a task is too easy or too difficult
He downplays his own shortcomings but is quick to point out others'
He takes credit for things that he doesn't deserve to take credit for
He bites off more than he can chew
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Since it's only the first couple issues, it's hard to know if the series will be more on the side of frightening fiction or commentary on writers as creators
There's no one really likable in this story so far, so anyone who needs a character to stand in for themselves in order to enjoy a story may be disappointed
This title may appeal more to longtime comics fans, writers and people in touch with how they lie to themselves than your average person
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
FEARSCAPE is a novel concept by an insanely talented and thoughtful creative team. It may be a little early to say, but if you're a fan of meta fiction or horror, I really think you'll like this title.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
VOID TRIP by Ryan O'Sullivan & Plaid Klaus
The Sandman, Vol. 1 by Gaiman, Kieth, Dringenberg & Jones III
The Unwritten, Vol. 1 by Mike Carey & Peter Gross
If you like the art:
FEARSCAPE #3 by Ryan O'Sullivan & Andrea Mutti
Port of Earth, Vol. 1 by Zack Kaplan & Andrea Mutti
Swamp Thing, Vol. 1 by Alan Moore & John Totleben
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Ryan O'Sullivan – Writer
Influenced by Bukowski, Nobokov, Shakespeare, and Hunter S. Thompson
Outlander: He’s from Yorkshire, England
Puts an enormous amount of thought and meaning into his works
Andrea Mutti – Penciller & Inker
Outlander: Currently lives in Italy, and I'm super jealous of this fact
In the past, he worked on several detective titles for French publishers
His talent for drawing the noir genre definitely translates well to this title
Vladimir Popov – Colorist
Dream Team: Also worked with Andrea Mutti on the comic, Control
Seems to enjoy working in muted colors
Inspired by Moebius, Simon Bisley, Frank Frazetta, Robert Crumb, Alex Raymod, Wally Wood and Don Lawrence (according to BrokenIconComics.com)
Outlander: Lives in Serbia
Deron Bennett (AndWorld Design) – Letterer
Founded AndWorld Design, a lettering & design studio
Multitalented: Also wrote the comic, Quixote
Has a cool video where he talks about why he loves lettering
HOW DO I BUY IT?
FEARSCAPE issue #2 comes out Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018.
Pre-order issue #2 from your Local Comics Shop.
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