Fearscape Vol 1-5
Vault Comics, pb, £15.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
When the Muse finds Henry Henry, an aspiring writer, she mistakes him for another author, and he does nothing to rectify her misunderstanding. Henry enters the Fearscape where he will uncover his own greatest fears that he can use them in stories to become mankind’s greatest fear. But Henry isn’t there by his own merit, and he begins to unravel with the weight of expectation from the Muse and the paranoia of his deception being uncovered. But his paranoia hints Henry’s past is darker than his future. If he can make it through the Fearscape he may uncover what he is really hiding from and give us the answer to his love/hate relationship with his more successful mentor.
Henry Henry is an anti-hero. His actions are all driven towards concealing his deception, something he acknowledges will turn us, the reader, against him, and holds us culpable with him as if by reading, we are guilty of his crimes. He is an unreliable narrator and O’Sullivan deploys a technique of covering the characters real words with the ones Henry wants to hear, which is both amusing and awkward, knowing that Henry is isolating himself further and further from reality and support.
There is limited dialogue between characters. Instead, Henry addressing the reader, justifying his actions, blaming everyone else for his actions, he even doubts another character’s sincerity in her grief, claiming she too is aware is in a story. While the spoken words are accessible, Henry’s monologues tend to ramble with formal language, which disconnected me from the story. There was so much of it, and some of them about the finer points of storytelling which could go on for a number of panels that it broke the flow of plot. I suppose that is a pit fall of writing about an aspiring writer.
For me, the art work is where Fearscape stood out. There was a clear distinction between inside the Fearscape and the ‘real’ world. The Fearscape is a realm of humanities darkest fears and this is where Mutti excels, presenting us half-formed things of imagination, fantastical and dreamlike. This is in contrast with the darker, gritter human world which is clearer lines and shadowed. Mutti creates atmosphere in what she doesn’t show us over what she does. There were times when the words, the protagonist’s direct addresses to the readers weren’t necessary and the art work was much more succinct. There were many enjoyable elements to Fearscape. The concept that the Muse is real and that inspiration is a real place for the greatest writer of the time to visit is fascinating. Suppose you were invited there by mistake, what lengths would you go to in order to access this? What is the price authors must pay for access and is it worth it? We’re not given the answer because it is personal to you. Henry’s ultimate fate is in keeping with his character leaving the reader with a disturbing and sad ending as the reason for Henry’s deceptive behaviour comes clear. Fearscape explores the humanity’s motivation to tell stories and the desire for recognition with an anti-hero we can all identify with on some level.