THIS REVIEW OF ‘A DARK INTERLUDE’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Brandy Dykhuizen. If you’re dying to cuddle up on the couch with a book that delights in teasing out mental trifles from long-past undergraduate Lit courses, a Proustian paint-by-number of sorts if you will, then A Dark Interlude may well satisfy that itch. Its nods and allusions unapologetically pour down on the Kovalyovian nose, with all the alliterative agony of Nabokov or Poe.
However, A Dark Interlude isn’t solely for the Monday Night Trivia set. Ryan O’Sullivan delights in tackling human absurdity, once again through the lens of the Fearscape, the world within his narrator’s mind that serves as a symbol for all of humanity’s largely self-inflicted suffering. He rolls a self-aware eye at the notion of the pen being mightier than the sword, as the protagonist, Henry Henry, and writers before him fight the Fearscape in order to be lauded as saviors who ushers in a new age of Enlightenment—in essence, they take arms against a sea of troubles that wouldn’t exist beyond their own insecurities.
O’Sullivan also casts some bold shade at the comics industry, especially against the big guys, in the form of two stuffy, old, all-controlling white men who scoff at a woman (previously referred to as the Muzhik, the Russian word for “serf”) for suggesting that a book should introduce a new storyline. According to these publishing patriarchs, readers of genre-fiction don’t want to be challenged, or to think. Coming on the heels of O’Sullivan’s previous Fearscape series, it doesn’t get much more delightfully meta than this.
Andrea Mutti not only brilliantly portrays the creatures that exist both in reality and in the Fearscape, but dwells on just the right amount of detail to shoulder the load of O’Sullivan’s near-incessant references. They come together the most beautifully in the scenes that meld what appears to be a mutual obsession with Nabokov. A Karner blue butterfly, a species discovered and named by Nabokov, flits through the first paneled pages of the book. The blue and yellow tones of the insect’s wings are mirrored by Vladimir Popov’s colors as the butterfly seems to invite us to follow it into the Fearscape. We see the colors float through the pages again, as the blue-clad antagonist fornicates with a glowing yellow muse, formerly belonging to the narrator. Later, the pair flits through a scene of violence, set against one of the most elaborate and multi-layered jokes in the book: an extended, even more rapey, play off the opening lines of Lolita, which began as an earnest explanation of how the author was not dropping another literary allusion and ended with his realization that—well, you know.
It’s a pretty heady work, yes. The brilliance is how author, artist, colorist, and letterer come together and intricately play off each other in extremely carefully planned ways that unveil new layers of the story—some as nuanced as the numbers painted on an inmate’s shirt, others about as subtle as a freight train. Yet, it somehow never seems to be too much. A Dark Interlude #1 demands a re-read not only because Easter egg hunts are fun, but because of its surprising ability to make you laugh at yourself, either as a comics fan, a writer, or a human.
Vault Comics / $3.99
Written by Ryan O’Sullivan.
Art by Andrea Mutti.
Colors by Vladimir Popov.
Letters by AndWorld Design.
9 out of 10
Check out this 8-page, 3-cover preview of ‘A Dark Interlude’ #1, courtesy of Vault Comics!
Cover A by Ariela Kristantina.
Cover B by Tim Daniel, Nathan Gooden.
Cover C by Rebekah Isaacs.