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FEARSCAPE #1, by Ryan O'Sullivan and Andrea Mutti

  ANDREW: So after reading the first page of the first issue of Vault Comics' upcoming FEARSCAPE, I thought "Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore fans are going to love this." And then I read the rest of the issue, and I was right--if you dig Sandman, this is right up your alley. Specifically, if you like THE SANDMAN #17, "Calliope", FEARSCAPE #1 has a lot of similar material to offer: a writer who's a liar, a muse, musings on the import of story, it's all in there. Which isn't to say it's the same story as "Calliope"; the creators approach each of these components from their own, enjoyably cynical angles. And it's merciless in skewering writerly pretension, which some may know is a favourite target of mine. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  BEEN: I admit I was wondering, after reading FEARSCAPE, who would dig this particular comic. Then when you said "Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore fans" I went "BOOYA" because you're so right. There's a lot of literary goings-on to parse here. Literary language and references, story import and structure, etc. All the lovely writerly things you mentioned. I kind of like that for me personally I don't much like the protagonist, Henry, at present. He's a bit of a pretentious lying slimeball at present which is both amusing and opens the narrative up for a lot of potential with his character. He's got a lot to learn and a comeuppance due, methinks. But I also really enjoy the art. The street scenes in particular feel very real. Lamps glow, leaves scatter, mist swirls… Andrea Mutti does a wonderful job with illustrated atmosphere which makes the forthcoming journey into the supernatural pretty exciting to anticipate.

  ANDREW: One of many things I like about FEARSCAPE #1 is the interplay between image and text. If you just read the words, you get one story; just look at the pictures, you get another. Only when the two combine do you get the whole story. Juxtaposition of image and text to create a whole more than the sum of its parts (maybe whole is the wrong word--"different" might be better) is a technique almost unique to comic books. And it's not used as effectively as it could be nearly often enough, in my opinion.

I can't dislike Henry too much--being a not-terribly-successful writer myself may let me empathize with the character more than some would. Not so much that I'll be upset when the pretentious schmuck gets what's coming to him, but a bit.

  BEEN: Am I also a pretentious writer? Is that why he irks me and yet I am keenly curious about his predicament?

I agree with you about the juxtaposition of the text and art: it's a kind of contradiction but one that works seamlessly together to tell you the full story. Henry is an unreliable narrator, being that he's entirely wrapped in his own conceit, so the art explains what is actually happening around him and thus you get layered storytelling. Or nuance, if you'd prefer a word Henry is more likely to use.