Fearscape #2 is No Slouch: Review
Story: Ryan O’Sullivan
Art: Andrea Mutti
Colors: Vladimir Popov
Letters: AndWorld Design (Deron Bennett)
Publisher: Vault Comics
Henry Henry, our humble, honorable, humorous hack writer is back, and this time he tackles the greatest of fears: the second issue. Tremble, mortals, for those who’ve walked the twisted and winding trails of this hazardous kingdom, desperate to clutch the prize at the end of the fever dream, have often stumbled and fallen to their doom!
Fearscape #2 is a great second issue, and that’s saying something.
Issue #1 had a lot of scaffolding to set up, and it did so quickly and with a little bit of excessive force. This time, we’re allowed to relax a little and watch HH poke and prod at the edges of his hero’s journey. There’s some good depth here, and I’m pleased to see that the Fearscape is adept at regurgitating the archetypes and symbols we’d expect without assembling them into a defined form we’ve seen before. There are nods to what’s come before (the conversation on the veranda between HH and his “heart” is Gaiman-esque, to say the least), but the touches are light, and the nature of the Fearscape and the comic itself means O’Sullivan can get away with a little pastiche. It’s done gently and with a lot of care, and that’s all I can ask for.
O’Sullivan has a hard task here, and that’s normalizing HH’s dialogue with the reader. What was a little much in the first issue settles out of its playful infancy and into a steady rhythm in issue #2, and his obfuscations and “edits” are both humorous and intriguing when we start toying with the frayed ends of his psyche. The narrator’s slight step back also allows Mutti’s art to shine a little brighter rather than carry the full weight of the conceit. The character design is interesting, the deeper shadows of the realm don’t overwhelm Mutti’s line or Popov’s superb watercolor palettes, and as in issue #1, everything blends together seamlessly to create a unique look for HH’s haphazard stumblings. The icing on the cake is the lettering: black balloons can be a hard sell, but the choice of a white outline helps them blend more easily into the gentle color washes. Likewise, the hand-drawn style softens the edges and perfectly suits in tone and in style.
I had my doubts, gentle readers. As I said before, I don’t like cleverness for its own sake, and while there was enough meat in the first issue to tide me over until this one, I’m pleased to see that HH’s overbearing voice has mellowed a little to allow the story to unfold. I’m sure it’ll be back, especially if he’s challenged to dig even deeper into his discomfort, but now I’m hoping for it – and that’s a narrative craft win, if I do say so.
Fearscape #2 is out tomorrow (Halloween!), so pick it up in print at your LCS and marvel at the landscape of the collective human imagination. It’s all we’ve got.