Writing: Ryan O’Sullivan Cover: Andrea Mutti & Vladimir Popov Pencils/Inks: Andrea Mutti Colours: Vladimir Popov Lettering: Deron Bennet of Andworld Design Publisher: Vault Comics
When is a comic book, not? Well this happens when something else is created entirely. FEARSCAPE is exactly this. Something else. Forget the 4th wall breaking cheap pop gimmick that other books have because FEARSCAPE immerses the reader by way of the on page embodiment of the worst marriage of hubris and delusion.
“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” [Modernism’s Patriarch (Time Magazine, June 10, 1996)]” ― Robert Hughes
… and that is what is on display with our dear Henry Henry. The plagiarist has perfect confidence in a less talented vessel trying desperately to keep his house of cards from crumbling despite the curtain having been raised on his deceit. Throughout this tale Henry has become both a shadow and cheap imitation of himself. At the start one could argue for his skill and mental capability by virtue of being able to concoct and carry out his rouse. Here though, at the end, our poor fool is flat against the wall staring down the barrel of his own emptiness. For all of his lying, attempts to turn the gaslight up to 1000, and purposeful confusatory going in and out of narration and direct interaction Henry is left with absolutely nothing when it all hits the fan. The unfolding of this grand deception (that ultimately is a grand fail of epic proportions) has been done in a way I’ve never read in this medium.
Everything from the dialogue of the book itself, the character dialogue, the art (both line art/coloring), to the page framing/structure of FEARSCAPE has created a truly unique package of a comic book. I’ve said it before and will again here – FEARSCAPE is the perfect example of what can be done in this medium and highlights just how intelligent creators in the comic industry are. I’ll have to re-read the thing several more times to grasp the nuance and recognize all of the hints, clues, inclusions, and layers that are in each chapter of this thing. Every new issue has brought an eyebrow raise or ‘hol up’ moment that has made me grab one (if not all) of the previous issues and dig in. It’s difficult because it is smart not because it is clunky. The ‘lengthy’ narrative is due to the approach and what the story is, not because the plane can’t be landed.
The marriage of delusion and hubris literally bursts through the page throughout this story and the damning conclusion of that relationship is given the full on spotlight (figuratively) that it deserves. As mentioned already the entirety of the book is a masterwork. As the tale comes to a close the physical structuring of the book (by both being and not being there) casts an eerie and ominous shadow/light over the closure of FEARSCAPE. You can’t help but do the one thing that Henry has tried to keep you from doing all along, and that’s concentrate and focus on what’s right there. It’s a fantastic reversal of how the majority of the tale has unfolded with Henry tossing any and all smoke bombs and mirrors in the way knowing full well we could see straight through them. His insulting in juxtaposition of his pampering the reader laid the ground work for a wonderfully satisfying conclusion to the ultimate revelation … the one of self. Nothing is ever what it seems and this story has both poked at and portrayed that ideal. Here in the end we get a very real dose of this with the revealing of Henry himself. The complexity of the layers in FEARSCAPE are mirrored by the complexity of Henry’s own make up. Who he is and WHY he is are laid bare and muddy the waters we thought we’d been seeing as clear by virtue of his actions. Despite being told and shown over and over just how layered and deep things are, it is the parallel of Henry being pulled back that not only drive home those points but bring them new light.
One can argue the merits of which portion of a story matters most or is more impactful. There are clear examples of openings being both the attention grabber and the ultimate point upon reflection. Ditto for endings. Sometimes you get the middle of a tale being the meat as well as the overall takeaway. If done correctly there none of the ways to spin a yarn are more correct than any of the others. That said, for me, NOTHING is better than a tale that blows you away the entire ride and then delivers a conclusion that is every bit as perfect as the tale and more so. Delivering on the promise of and work already done leading to the conclusion is, in my opinion, the hardest but most satisfying thing to do. FEARSCAPE beyond delivers. For the beauty of the tale both literary and visually, it is raw and open conclusion that does the most important illustrating of this tale. For all of the fantasy we rile up everything is all too real.
FEARSCAPE #5 IS OUT ON APRIL 24th!!!!