I wasn’t going to pick this issue up. I didn’t really want to add yet another series to my pull list, when what I should be doing is cutting some series off. There were just too many factors pulling me towards this series, though. And over the weekend, I had a chance to talk with Jeremy Haun briefly at Kansas City Comic Con. Talking with him and watching him sketch reminded me that he’s an artist I really dig.
I still wasn’t sold on reading The Beauty #1, however, figuring I’d just wait for the trade to come out. But at my local comic shop this afternoon, Jenny Frison’s variant cover grabbed my attention (see below). The dark passion surrounding the elegant, smoldering figure whispered, “This is a story you have to read.”
The story revolves around a sexually transmitted disease called Beauty that erases the ugliness of the afflicted, making him or her beautiful. Many people clamor, for the sake of vanity, to contract the disease. Society goes as far as creating clubs designed specifically to aid people in acquiring the disease. As with anything that tests the moral fabric of a culture and isn’t fully understood, another portion of society reacts with disgust and violence towards those who embrace the disease. This volatile situation places Detectives Foster and Vaughn in the path of a twisted mystery that screams conspiracy.
The Beauty #1 has the perfect balance of intrigue, exposition, and horror. The series is advertised as a being in the horror/sci-fi/mystery genres, but the way Haun and Hurley build the world that surrounds Foster and Vaughn transcends genre. The effects of the disease are developed to the point where the readers may find themselves questioning their own vanity and morality.
On the other hand, the events that thrust the main characters into the subcultures surrounding those who embrace the disease and those who protest it create the uncomfortable sense that something is seriously wrong with the world. This combination of comfort and unease will leave readers feeling unbalanced and tense.
Haun and Hurley employ a minimalistic style of character development throughout this issue. While the story places emphasis on the relationship between Detectives Foster and Vaughn, very little is revealed of either character. There are just enough details or shadows of details given that readers will feel intrigued by the characters, but never comfortable enough to make a decision about their overall role in the story. Are they innocent bystanders, thrust into a nightmarish web of biological warfare, willing participants in the moral decay of society, or fallen heroes set upon a path of redemption? This development choice allows readers to become immersed in the atmosphere, feeling every moment of suspense and tension as events unfold.
Haun’s artwork and Rauch’s coloring accentuate every excellent aspect of the plot. Haun’s character representations de-emphasize the lack of character development by drawing attention to the emotions. As Foster and Vaughn try to reason out the presence of the CDC at one of their crime scenes, Haun portrays Detective Vaughn hugging her shoulders and enveloped by shadow. This depiction is just one of several that will help lead readers to feel just how fragile the characters are even though very little is actually known about them.
I have completely forgotten whatever reservations I titanically had about picking up this series. The twisting, unsettling path of the plot combined with artwork that highlights all the outstanding components of the story help place The Beauty #1 above many other series that try to instill edgy, originality into a genre-bending storytelling.