Volume one showcased a fantastic idea with lots of room for exploration, volume two brought in new characters and expanded the world, now, in season three, everything comes together and The Beauty is finally starting to live up to its potential. The series continues to play with our societies dangerous obsession with beauty, the lengths that some will go for it, and just what that means to our society as a whole. While there are a few small problems, these themes are represented strongly in this issue; furthermore, the horror comic very successfully embraces its more speculative fiction aspects making this the best volume yet.
This turn in genre is seen especially clearly in chapter twelve. Instead of jumping right into the Beauty Task Force and serial killer stuff, we get a short story about an attractive man trying to date in a world infected by beauty. The extrapolation seen in this chapter is perfect as conversations such as whether a seven would have sex with a four do indeed happen in real life, but take on additional meaning in this context. I find this chapter to be a fascinating tangent as he is assumed to be infected and treated as such. Without even talking to him about it, two women just assume and one of them even goes as far as to sleep with him in order to catch it. It asks the reader to really contemplate how dating would change when it is possible for someone to be angry because they don’t get an S.T.D after a night in bed. In a lot of ways, it reverses what we see in our dating patterns because attractiveness has entirely new meanings attached to it. These are the moments where this series is at its best. In the main storyline, the reveals come hard and fast. I genuinely wouldn’t want to be spoiled on any of them, so I am not going to reveal them here. Suffice it to say, it was a mostly satisfying ride. I even really liked the ending, although I have a feeling that might be contentious.
The writing done by Jeremy Haun and Jason A. Hurley is solid when it comes to themes, but occasionally spotty elsewhere. The questions of representation vs tokenism, societal discrimination, and the building of community are all well handled and I thought that the conversation about how to approach the topic with somebody who looks to be obviously infected was a nice touch. This was greatly helped by the fact that the attractive man in the opening chapter was not infected but shared many of the traits that made it appear he was. In other words, this volume even works to counter itself because, as obvious as it may appear, it is still best to not assume. Unfortunately, the plotting sometimes lags and the dialogue occasionally feels forced with an extra “the” or what feels like a missing word. I don’t know if they are going for a particular accent, if they are trying to make a new slang pattern, or if they are just random typos.
The art in this volume feels a little lacking as things are much more beautiful than they are grotesque, but Thomas Nachlik and Jeremy Haun do a consistently good job and John Rauch’s colors are perfect. There isn’t anything particularly remarkable, but there isn’t anything really wrong either. My main issue is that, to the reader, it is not always clear by the illustrations alone who is infected and who is not. John Rauch’s colors are the saving grace here as the infected’s glow still contrasts just enough to stand out from the washed out noir pallet of everything else. While not making assumptions about who has it and who doesn’t might play into this, my critique is really about the fact that this is supposed to based on what would happen in a world like ours and our world is not full of models. In a comic that is so focused on physical appearance, it would have been nice to see more variation in the people who are supposedly normal. Just about everybody in this volume is aesthetically beautiful even when talking about their supposed broken out skin and cellulite. Rauch really is the star when it comes to the art and it was nice to get to see him really shine with the beautiful tones of a slowly fading sunset on top of an abandoned building.
In the end, I am nit-picking because I see so much potential here. The big unmentioned moments are great and the little moments like showing how scary and uncomfortable it is to be approached by a stranger on public transportation make it even better. For those who gave up on The Beauty, this volume is worth returning for. For those who are still questioning it, I recommend giving it a chance. Rest assured, I am basing that recommendation on its merits and not just because it is a book with a pretty cover.
Written by; Jeremy Haun & Jason A. Hurley
Art by; Jeremy Haun & Thomas Nachlik
Colors by; John Rauch
Published by; Image Comics