Advance Review: Dean Haspiel's 'Fear, My Dear' is a war of woo

A comic review article by: Jason Sacks

Love does complicated things to us. When we have love in our lives, it's like being part of a larger world, a touch of a divine connection in our everyday lives. When we lack love it's like something is missing in our heart, and some key element of what makes us human is gone from our lives. The lack of love can be a chasm that creates a pain more profound than any physical pain. That pain can turn us into monsters.

Dean Haspiel's new graphic novel Fear, My Dear, which hits comic shops on Wednesday, June 18, explores love and its absence, along with a healthy dose of thrills: both stories in this wonderful collection feature the action hero Billy Dogma and his paramour, Jane Legit, in thrilling, edge-of-your-seat adventures that are suffused with Haspiel's customary eccentric zest for angular linework, deep philosophy and true love.

The first story, "Immortal", starts with the small image of a broken heart against a fully black page facing against a full-page image, colored all in red, of Billy Dogma breaking through a brick wall. The scene starts the book with a wonderful symbol that promises passion and energy and a symbolic breaking of the fourth wall that tells the reader that this tale will follow different paths than they might expect.

As we soon find out, Dogma is tough, and as we also find out, this bruiser adores his dame. And as the all-action, all-philosophy narrative moves ahead, Dogma is thrown into jail, where he is attacked by a strange space monster that came to Earth due to the deep love that Dogma and Legit share. As Haspiel explains it in a typical burst of comic book babble, "The fallout from the immortal sky irradiated the fire of a romantic duo and, in their war of woo, awoke the monster."

See, the creature (which, by the way, is gorgeously drawn, isn't it?) no longer knows how to love, so Billy and Jane collect trinkets that represent peoples' most cherished memories, in order to show that the essence of love is sacrifice, before our heroes defeat the alien by engaging in some vigorous super-hero lovemaking. That leads to them defeating their zombie doppelgangers and sending the monster home with a giant heart filled with the happiness that he has been given – the greatest gift they ever could give.

This story is all a little bonkers and pretty crazy and kind of awesome, a kind of child of Jack Kirby's super-hero comics and Jack Kirby's romance comics filtered through an indie mindset and some gorgeous coloring to become a completely unique and completely wacky comics experience.

The second piece, "Fear My Dear", is colored in monochrome yellow in the same way as the first tale is colored in red. And like the first, this tale is a kind of existential journey into a Hell that contains an ultimate weapon and the definitive, incredibly tragic, truth behind Billy Dogma's origin.

Some scenes in this story are completely heartbreaking. The soul-crushing manner that Billy discovers the truth about himself and his father feels especially tragic when reread on Father's Day, and especially sad for me on a day when I think a lot about my dad -- who always encouraged my comic reading and my other creative passions. As the old phrase goes, the son must kill the father in order to become himself – and this story brings that canard to terrible, moving life. Just try to look at the page below and not be filled with nostalgia and sadness for times lost.

Thus while  "Immortal" looks at the effect that the loss or possession of romantic love has for people, "Fear, My Dear" looks at the destruction of familial love as well as the importance of giving up ego and committing to love another person. Though it has a central image of a tragedy, this visual parable reads again as a paean to the idea of love, to opening yourself up to the richness of your soul, allowing yourself to feel, and to seizing the day.

Fear, My Dear lives in a strange dreamspace for comics: at the same time an action epic, a philosophical treatise and the simple story of the gain or loss of love – all drawn in Dean Haspiel's typically thrilling style. This is one of those "stealth" graphic novels that seems to be one simple thing but ends up being a much more complex work than you might expect at first. If you like romance and action – and spacemonsters too – this is a book for you.

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