Lo, A Writer! Expository Excitement in Fearscape #1: Review
Story: Ryan O’Sullivan
Art: Andrea Mutti
Colors: Vladimir Popov
Letters: Deron Bennett (AndWorld Design)
Publisher: Vault Comics
Henry Henry is the greatest unpublished genius of our time – if you ask him. Too bad the apparent savior of humanity happens to be a hack, a plagiarist, a liar and a bit of a weasel.
Fearscape #1 posits that it’s not always the Luke Skywalkers or the Robin Hoods that’re called to save the day – sometimes it’s the charlatans, too. And, maybe, there’s a little redemption for them along the way.
Or, maybe it’ll all go to hell. Who knows!
I like Fearscape’s take on the wildly verbose, unreliable narrator, and it mostly works. There are a few spots where a gag is repeated or Henry Henry (HH) is a little too spot-on with his references, but it’s an effective way to do a narration-first comic, and one that’s taking the piss. It’ll also be interesting to see if that trend continues, or Henry Henry’s so inspired by his new mythic landscape that he stumbles into some hybrid or experimental prose.
What helps this potentially top-heavy concept along is O’Sullivan’s unwillingness to sacrifice imagination for conceit, and Mutti’s fine art helps to contrast HH’s pontification. This isn’t a deconstructionist work, so far – it’s poking fun at reductive, self-referential arrogance while expanding the story universe around HH in a believable way. Mutti’s loose line and Popov’s gentle colors soften the edges of HH’s ego on the page, which is exactly what the comic needs to succeed. There are hints of Astro City in some of Fearscape’s style and conception, and I’ll never knock a title for resonating with Busiek’s wildly imaginative opus.
Speaking of Popov’s colors, I enjoy the grey, purple and gold tones that tie the issue together. The grey sells HH’s dismal reality, while the Muse’s gentle glow is a fine bridge into the sinister violet hues of the Fearscape. Bolder colors would do Mutti’s work a disservice, and the two strike a perfect balance. Bennett’s choice of a squatter typeface complements the art’s flow, and I’m always appreciative when lettering craft helps sell a lot of text. Narrow lettering would pinch the flow a little too much.
What the team is doing here is clever. I don’t always like clever, but I’ll concede when clever does what it sets out to do and is entertaining along the way. I also really appreciate when conceit and creativity bolster each other in equal measure. It’s a fine line to walk, and so far O’Sullivan makes it happen. Finally, I’ll give anyone kudos for taking a playful shot at the 9-panel grid and the Moore acolytes, much as I like some more recent takes on it.
I’m heading into the next few issues with some specific hopes. I want to see Henry Henry get taken down a few notches – if not in his own estimation, then in the continued wry humor that swirls around him. I want a little less narrative control from HH, and a little more chaos as the Fearscape takes hold. I want to see that imaginative streak bloom with some hallucinatory goodness. And, most of all, I want to be surprised, and have all of these expectations thrown out the window in the face of some good ol’ comic book storytelling.
All of these things are more than possible with O’Sullivan and Mutti at the helm, so I look forward to more. Issue #1 is out September 26th, so don’t miss it!