Review – Fearscape #5 (Vault Comics)

Publisher: Vault Comics
Writer: Ryan O’Sullivan
Artwork: Andrea Mutti
Colours: Vladimir Popov
Lettering: Andworld Design
Release Date: 24th April 2019

Well dear reader, welcome to the concluding chapter in part one of FEARSCAPE, wherein we will see the true colours of our hero Henry Henry, and witness his inevitable triumph over the forces pitched against him… or possibly not.   Jill Proctor has taken the infant Muse in order to protect her, Henry’s descent into madness is almost complete and The Triplets’ conquest of The Fearscape is almost complete. One final horrifying revelation may be the salvation of Henry but will it come too late and will it matter in the end?

This week, my editor suggested I ought to give this series a go in what has turned out to be an act of unprecedented benevolence. Usually his “editors picks” are designed to push the limits of my inventiveness with regards to positively expressing a commentary on something even he couldn’t be polite about.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached the first issue this morning and, like the proverbial fat kid left alone in a candy shop, I devoured the whole series in one sitting. This series is the complete opposite of what I was expecting and it’s really refreshing to see something in this genre where the protagonist is pulling double shifts as the antagonist, and your preconceived ideas of how the story is progressing get completely turned on their head time and again.

My initial feeling was that I was in for an adventure borrowed from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, but Ryan O’Sullivan has pulled something a bit special out of the bag with this series and created something that, while there are some familiar tropes, shows some new and inventive ways of presenting them. This is a story that sets the greatest literary minds of all time as the guardians of both our imaginations and our mortal lives in a never ending struggle against the embodiment of the worst fears that mankind can imagine.

For those of you who, like me, haven’t followed the series until now; I feel a short summary of the plot is warranted. Henry is a writer, albeit not a great one, and he mostly translates the work of others into English as a way of making money. Henry is also not a well-liked man. His agent hates him, the daughter of his Benefactor actively loathes him and he has no family or social connections to smooth the edges of his abrasive and self-obsessed personality. His benefactor, successful writer Arthur Proctor, is dying and in an underhand  attempt to further his own career Henry finds himself transported to the FEARSCAPE, a world constructed from pure imagination. The Muse, believing Henry to be Arthur Proctor, charges him with the solemn task of being this era’s literary hero in order to save the world from mankind’s worst fear. Unfortunately for The Muse, and mankind, Henry is far from being a hero and things are definitely not going to go to plan.

With a warning that Here Be Spoilers…

If you have been following the series then by now you accept that Henry is completely, utterly, self-obsessed and convinced that the whole world is conspiring against what he believes is his undeniable talent. His actions in this chapter are those of a man beyond redemption even while others, despite their better judgement, are still trying to save him.

Whilst Fearscape has, throughout the previous issues, had its tongue firmly in its cheek with regards to its subject matter, the final denouement of this story is particularly unpalatable and, for personal reasons, quite a tough subject to read about. Whilst it does go some way to explaining away Henry Henry’s behaviour and personality flaws, I actually cheered when Jill denies it as an excuse “plenty of kids go through what Henry went through and don’t grow up into assholes”.

Without either pouring my soul out to you, or turning this into a sociopolitical soapbox, it makes me physically sick every time some bleeding heart liberal tries to in some way justify the actions of a psychopath by using childhood abuse as an excuse. Ok, most of us that have suffered abuse will always be broken in some way or other but I guarantee you that 99% of us don’t perpetuate the cycle or become unspeakable monsters. I’d like to thank Ryan O’Sullivan for that one line of text. Believe me, it means a lot.

Ultimately, what I took away from this series was that it’s story about our need to be seen and have our accomplishments recognised, however small; and the lengths that some will to, in order to grasp that fabled five minutes of fame.

Right, moving along….

The artwork throughout this series has been excellent. Andrea Mutti and Vladimir Popov have down a top job of bringing Ryan O’Sullivan’s World to life. Whilst I’m not going to claim that this is the best artwork I’ve ever seen, I do think that is has been of consistently high quality from start to finish and Mutti has created some really interesting and clever interpretations of the denizens and inspirations that inhabit the Fearscape.

I enjoyed a lot of the character design, the concept for HERO being particularly good, the amalgam of all the great literary heroes, represented by a golden knight with no face of his own, just  a multi-faceted crystal cube for a head. Architecture and landscape being my particular thing, I have really enjoyed the physical worlds that Mutti and Popov create, the real and the surreal blending together beautifully.

So, with apologies to the creative team for jumping on this so late, I have to say that this is a great series that has taken me to some interesting places, some that are fantastical, some that are horrific and some that have made me think about what is truly important in this world.

Rating: 3.5/5.

The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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