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Fearscape 1-5: A review and love letter to a masterpiece

Fearscape Review

Writer: Ryan O’Sullivan

Illustrator: Andrea Mutti

Colorist: Vladimir Popov

Lettering: Andworld Design

Publisher: Vault Comics


Dear Reader…

My love of Fearscape from the incredible guys over at Vault Comics is the worst kept secret in the world. It’s barely even a secret, I talk about it every chance I get. So, what with Chapter 5 hitting the shelves, it seemed only fitting that we revisit and review just how our blisteringly arrogant protagonist Henry Henry batted through the Fearscape and came to be where and who he is…and what becomes of him.

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Our journey begins

From Chapter One, we are led into the Fearscape under many a false pretence, and guided through by Henry and the Muse (for a Chapter 1 review, click here). As the chapters move on, we become ensnared in an increasingly sticky web of lies that our protagonist weaves to ensure that no harm or judgement should befall him. In fact, things start to look up for Henry.

Until reading Fearscape, there was much that I believed could be rendered only imperfectly or incompletely in print – and I have never been more delighted to be proved so wrong so hard. We see Henry, so acerbically self-preserving, manipulating his own memories and thoughts so that we may only be presented with the vision of himself he wishes for us to see. Then, we see that web coming unstuck. How can you do that and make it look so easy? Man, you guys are good.

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As the truth begins to surface about Henry, how he came to the Fearscape, and what he did to get dragged back, we are treated to yet another masterclass in creating a comic book. The “forgive me” sequence in Chapter 3 is one of the most deftly and elegantly executed pages of a comic book I have read in quite some time. Poignant, chilling, and simple – utter and unabashed perfection. It is my firm belief that to condemn anyone to death between panels is to kill them a thousand times; every reader will have their own version of what happens in that closure, and it’s even better when the art either side is so stunning.


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As we reach the end of the Part I arc, Chapter 4 comes to deliver the most magnificently manipulative twists, as Henry convinces us, the reader (casual or not, you decide) that we are in fact complicit in all his misdemeanors and moral screw-ups. Between the ethereal purples, the mellow golds, and the sharp blacks – we have truly been wrangled into the Fearscape itself through no will of our own. To manipulate a passive reader into compliance with unthinkable and otherworldly acts is more than a stroke of creative genius; its a metric ton of it.

 

And now, the end is near

As our unease and disquiet builds, we turn to our latest release – Chapter 5, and oh boy does it pull no punches. Henry, fraught with confusion and fear, makes his way to Arthur’s apartment – and little does he know it will be his undoing. Scuffles and missteps have Henry wrenched back to the Fearscape, but not before we find out more of the truth about why he is just so inimitably…Henry Henry. Chapter 5 proved me wrong again, and damn it felt good. Who knew you could so effectively and beautifully put a montage in print? Who knew I could have such visceral reactions to text boxes and paneling? Who knew an ending that sweet could be so haunting? I should know better than to ask “who knew..?” when dealing with Vault Comics. Whatever you think can’t be done can be, and damn they will do it so much better than you ever thought.

Ryan O’Sullivan’s writing is second to none and between that and the impeccable art and colouring, Fearscape has set the bar stratospherically high, and Chapter 5 is the delicious gothic icing on a hellishly good cake.


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