Updated: Nov 27, 2019
Writer: Ryan O'Sullivan Art: Andrea Mutti Publisher: Vault Comics
This review only covers the 5th 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.
Henry Henry has done some horrible things. Unforgivable things. He's dug himself a hole so deep, he finally hit bedrock.
Henry scrambles to cover up his actions, clumsily lying and gaslighting the characters and even us, as the audience. As he does this, other forces scramble for power or against it in the Fearscape.
The house of cards Henry built will come crashing down one way or another. Who will be left under the rubble?
Henry Henry's attempts at gaslighting are taken to near-comical heights, as is his ineptitude – he can't even successfully choose a number between 1 and 3
It never ceases to entertain how Henry will tell us he's not doing something as he is doing it (see below for an example)
That selection below is also a great example of Mutti's clever way of changing the panel borders and relying on Vladimir Popov's expert coloring to show the difference between the times and realities
The way O'Sullivan and Mutti take the pieces of the story and make them make sense is like a magician completing a magic trick. You're left there, mouth agape, trying to remember every detail so your brain can draw a thread of logic through them.
Andrea Mutti's panelling change in the final pages is like a film cutting all soundtrack and background noise, lending an eerie quiet that makes you focus on what's right in front of you
The return of the 9-panel grid vs the page it precedes...well, let's just say it's very effective (so as not to spoil anything), especially after the very beginning of the series
Andworld's Deron Bennett's dialogue and narration boxes seem hand-drawn (at least in this particular issue), giving a sense of instability to Henry Henry
You may also want to re-read the entire series after finishing this issue. There is so much foreshadowing and subtlety you may not have picked up on the first time.
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 Fearscape's nuances.
While I do think Henry's unnecessarily flowery speech is perfect characterization, I felt like that made it hard to follow, sometimes. However, I think this was intentional, especially when considering the previous bullet. Like good magicians, O'Sullivan and Mutti work to distract and misdirect us, keeping us guessing so the ending hits us that much more powerfully.
There are things I'm still thinking about and working through as I write this, eager to get it live before the issue drops. Plus, there are other things I don't want to spoil, and talking more about them would do just that. But the idea of a binary that doesn't exist is interesting. And I think I know what to do with that concept in the context of the issue, but I feel like I want to talk it out with other readers. So, feel free to tweet me your thoughts!
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
FEARSCAPE is the smartest, most mind-bending comic on shelves. It's one of the rare comics that uses the medium uniquely, in a way other media simply cannot, to tell a story that feels new and fresh and different. FEARSCAPE will keep you guessing the entire way through, defying all genres and their conventions. It's a truly singular work of art.
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 #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
Adrian F. Wassel – Editor
Name Recognition: Is the CCO & Editor In Chief of Vault Comics, and edits Vault's titles
Also runs Vault with his brother and father
Seems to work very closely and intensely with comic creators when developing stories
HOW DO I BUY IT?
FEARSCAPE issue #5 will be released April 24th.
Pre-order issue #5 from your Local Comics Shop.
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