Writer: Ryan O'Sullivan Art: Andrea Mutti Publisher: Vault Comics
This review only covers the 4th issue. For more discussion of previous issues, click here.
WHAT IS IT?
A moody, meta, medium-breaking comic disguised as horror fantasy with an unreliable narrator, who is a plagiarist who gets in way over his head.
It's a little like Dante's Inferno with a Twin Peaks aesthetic and a Memento narrative. It also has a pinch of Breaking Bad, as the creators see just how evil they can make their protagonist while keeping readers worried about him.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
If you don't want previous issues spoiled for you, READ THOSE NOW BEFORE READING THIS.
OK? Good to go? Great.
Here's what I know:
Henry Henry has plagiarized his mentor's work, gaining himself some fame in the literary world. He's also pretended to be Arthur Proctor (said mentor), in order to defend the world against humanity's fears in the Fearscape. Usually, only the world's greatest creator (in this case, Arthur) can defend humanity and, since Henry Henry is only a plagiarist, things haven't gone as expected.
To cover it up, he's murdered the Muse, a helpful anthropomorphized concept who realized Henry was not the man he claimed to be.
This issue sees Henry digging that hole ever deeper with his lies as he tries to cover up what he's done, lying and pitting powerful Fearscape entities against each other.
As the reader, we too are a part of his story, and he speaks directly to us. He lies about his motivations and he pits us against casual readers and the characters who seek to expose him.
The one character witness who could tell the world about Henry Henry is Arthur, but his mental state is deteriorating with dementia. At some points, he seems to remember who Henry really is: a liar. But mostly, he seems almost excited to see Henry, to the point of mistaking his daughter, Jill, for him on more than one occasion. Jill hates Henry and is working with a Fearscape entity to expose him.
Meanwhile, there are three triplet shapeshifter beings who helped Henry in the past and now seek to use him for more sinister purposes. While Henry narrates this part, it's almost like he's narrating from the future, raising even more questions.
But one question remains brighter than all others right now: How far is Henry willing to go to protect his secret?
O'Sullivan's story is told in layers, what is happening vs what is told to us, which makes for a fun reading experience with depth
His style in this comic reminds me of Palahniuk, constantly challenging himself to write in innovative ways, often with protagonists we root for even though they may not be likeable
Henry Henry as a protagonist is like Breaking Bad's Walter White: I wonder how far he has to go before we stop rooting for him simply because he's our protagonist
He's a little like villains in the real world in that he makes things worse for everyone else while having few personal consequences of his own
There's a certain sadistic joy in watching a jerk like Henry get himself into a world of trouble
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
Maybe we root for Henry Henry because he also reminds us of ourselves, just a little bit?
Mutti's art is ethereal, moody and almost dreamlike when combined with Vladimir Popov's brooding colors, and feels inspired by classic fantasy illustrations (see below) or darker-themed TV shows
Andworld's Deron Bennett's lettering is on-point, and his caption placements build the story and characterizations unlike any other comic-letterer duo out there right now
This may be misattributed, as the dialogue/narration boxes' placement could be built into the script, but the lettering in this comic is still highly effective nonetheless
The demonic entity in this issue speaks in the same mannerisms Henry Henry sometimes slips into, which I found fascinating
You're definitely going to want to read the back cover on these issues -- there's a delightful easter egg there
Also, Vault comics have been putting intros here on most, if not all of their titles, and I find it really helpful to remind me what's happened before and what to expect inside
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
The narrative has so many layers, between the unreliable narrator and the unpredictable story, it can be difficult to keep up with the story's nuances
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
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
FEARSCAPE is a novel concept by an insanely talented and thoughtful creative team. It's currently doing something entirely new and different in the comics medium, and it makes a point of breaking the traditional concept of a "comic book" every chance it gets.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
If you like the art:
FEARSCAPE #1-3 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
Part of the White Noise collective with other extremely talented writers
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 #4 is coming soon.
Pre-order issue #4 from your Local Comics Shop.
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