Wind rattles down the empty streets.
Dust gathers where people used to.
The world has ended.
The world, as we know it, at least.
The insects came.
Picking through the rubble are the last remnants of what was once a master race.
Some humans are still alive.
Not many, and to call what they do “living” is being generous.
Thrown together by circumstances beyond their control, they have to make the best of what is left to them.
They have to survive…
The post-apocalyptic genre covers a wide variety of stories. Zombie horror has been synonymous with it for over a decade thanks to The Walking Dead. The Mad Max films and George Miller’s vision of a war-driven dystopia remain strong in the public conciousness. The Fallout series of video games combine both these sub-genres and more besides. The one common driving theme in all of these works is the loss of humanity in the wake of mankind’s destruction.
The Beautiful Death (or La Belle Mort, in the original French) is laser focused upon this theme. We are told that insects are responsible for the fall of mankind but they are as much an unseen presence as the monster in the original Alien. Those expecting tense gun-battles with giant alien bugs will be disappointed. The true monster of the story is man and the savagery that arises when the need for survival outweighs any ethical concerns.
Matthieu Bablet’s prose style, as translated by Edward Gauvin, proves as bleak and desolate as the world depicted in his artwork. Bablet puts great detail into his backgrounds yet leaves his people deliberately undefined outside of their close-ups. This subtly suggests the loss of identity and significance in the wake of disaster and the sense of ennui that now dominates the world. The final effect is reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame, which dealt with the same ideas in a post-apocalyptic setting.
The Beautiful Death may prove beyond the grasp of many comic book readers. There is little in the way of action and plot in this first chapter and the characters are hardly memorable. Those who rise to its challenge, however, will be rewarded with an unusual and enjoyable reading experience.