THIS REVIEW OF ‘FEARSCAPE’ #5 IS SPOILER-FREE.
by Sara Mitchell. Dear, dear, reader. We’ve arrived at Fearscape #5, haven’t we. And it’s been a pretty absurd journey, hasn’t it? A story of trust, obsession, delusion. A story where your narrator forces you into a strange pact with him. In exchange for being his reader, you accept full responsibility for his odd, deranged actions, agreeing with everything he’s told you—that he wouldn’t have done what he’s doing if it weren’t for you—that if you hadn’t turned the page none of this would be happening. By letting him entertain you, he’s convinced you that you’re the one who’s created him.
In Fearscape, for hundreds of years our world has depended on sturdy storytellers, pioneers of poetry, literary leaders, knights of narration, for our very survival. Once in every generation, the Muse comes to our world from the Fearscape to retrieve our greatest living storyteller, who is charged with the task of defeating our greatest fears. Francesco Petrarch found a rat-like creature in the Fearscape called the Plague, and as he defeated that creature in the Fearscape, so too was the Black Death cured on Earth. These storytellers sacrifice a part of themselves for the greater good, in order to make us stronger.
This storyteller for us, of course, is regrettably Henry Henry. Self-preservational, manipulative, narcissistic, a liar. He’s constantly editing the comic in real-time as we read. He embellishes, revises, summarizes, and redacts entire conversations. Keeping his hands over our eyes and letting us peek through his fingers whenever he approves. All in our best interest, of course. He has to preserve us, after all, since he’s deemed us worthy of being his readers.
I used to have a recurring nightmare when I was in school that I was part of this mass migration of people at the end of the world trying to pass through a large, seemingly infinite, cave. We had to keep our heads down, our eyes closed and our mouths shut as we traveled in a long line hugging tightly against the walls, because the very large monsters in the cave could only detect you if they saw you and you made eye contact with them. (Yes, I wrote Bird Box. Thanks for all the memes.) With nothing more than the feeling of the person in front of you and the occasional sight of your own feet, you had to trust that you were still following a leader that was moving forward towards light and survival.
I bring up this nightmare because, like Henry Henry, I struggle to communicate without allusions to other stories, or becoming deeply invested in my own perspective. And, like Fearscape, I think there is a strong message to be found in following a leader through the dark, deprived of all autonomy and senses. The greatest power that a storyteller has is that they can suck you out of your world and into theirs. And with that great power comes, too often, a great abuse of power. That power, of taking the reins on a another person’s senses, parallels what we see in two scenarios echoed in both Fearscape and our own lives: abusive relationships and the modern crisis of false storytellers. The two tend to go hand-in-hand.
We can’t make meaning of things, we can’t trust anything, when we can’t trust our storytellers, our leaders, or our guardians. Henry Henry represents all of this. Henry Henry isn’t the dedicated, pressing hero. He is the fear impersonating the savior. He’s the rat that embodied the crisis of the past, the man that embodies our current greatest anxieties. He’s controlling our perspective. He’s literally fake news.
Everything we’ve gone through on this anti-hero’s journey is kindling for the fire that lights in Fearscape #5. Without spoiling anything, we do get a brief moment’s glimpse at reality. In this final issue, we get the unredacted report. It’s refreshing and haunting, all at the same time, the truths comes to light as soon as Henry Henry isn’t controlling the narrative. It’s like pulling away from a man that’s kept his hands over your eyes for too long. Like taking a deep breath and finding the sun again after being trapped in a dark, dank cave for four and a half issues.
Vault Comics / $3.99
Written by Ryan O’Sullivan.
Art by Andrea Mutti.
Colors by Vladimir Popov.
Letters by AndWorld Design.
8 out of 10
Check out this 3-page preview of ‘Fearscape’ #5, courtesy of Vault Comics!
Variant cover by Andrea Mutti.