doctorfluxx's Fashion Beast #1 review

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Fashion Beast: The Complete Series Review

Though I was picking up the issues of this series, I intentionally put off reading Fashion Beast. I’ve learned some time ago that Alan Moore’s fables are best absorbed all at once, and I must admit the ostensible subject matter didn’t outright grab me. The issues piled up, and I finally tore into them the other day. Boy was I in for a pleasantly strange surprise.

Real quick, before I get to my opinion: Fashion Beast was screen play by Alan Moore, Malcolm McLaren, and Antony Johnston; a loose adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, written in the 1980s shortly after Watchmen, but was never opted for and sat on the shelf for decades until being revived in the form of a comic published by Avatar press. If this movie HAD been made, it would have likely joined the bizarre ranks of films such as Brazil or Clockwork Orange, but for all intents and purposes, this comic was crafted to mimic a cinematic experience – and in that special way that only this format can – transcends it.

We join Doll, a gender-ambiguous girl at a lousy point in her life. Life is not sugar and fireworks for anyone, really, considering this dark nameless city is being encroached upon by a “nuclear winter” that is reservedly mentioned throughout the story. Men are being shifted off to war, implying a battle is still raging somewhere, while the children, elderly and women make up a meager, crumbling society distracted by obsessions over fashion.

Doll appears rather vapid and downtrodden, but she has fashionable aspirations of her own. Serendipity steals her away from a crummy coat-check job and she finds herself auditioning at the prestigious Celestine Salon to be hand picked by it’s mysterious recluse to be the years break out model. Jean Claude Celestine – son of the most revered fashion designer in history – hides in the shadows of a dark room with presumed disfigurements and a well worn deck of tarot cards. He conducts the selection process from a mirrored window, and the events that thrust the bewildered Doll from obscurity to “stardom” appear to be in the cards.

There is so much to this story, it would be laborious and spoilery of me to connect the dots, but I can’t recommend it enough. Every issue is exceedingly immersive as some very dynamic and flawed characters – products of a dying world – struggle to hold on to the remains of what used to matter. Beauty and the Beast has only the most cursory influence on this tale; the themes are appropriately far more philosophically permeating than the children’s fable was intended to be.

I got to mention Facundo Percio’s art. Under Antony Johnson’s sequential editing, Percio approaches scenes with a director’s eye. Often the “camera” sits stationary and lets the active contents of the environment shift around as the scenes – chock full of Moore’s superb dialogue- play out. This is a cinematic practice and has a way of anchoring you in that world. Where many comics are more Michael-Bay-on-meth frantic, this one takes its time shifting to different perspectives and it the world subtly bleeds into your consciousness. Other times, when called for, the points of view are more intimate, and the emotion of those moments are amplified by sad and sensual imagery. The art style is perfect for the vaguely steam punk, pre-apocalyptic veneer of the setting, where horses and carriages are the way to get around.

Lets be up front: this comic is not for your casual cape and tights fanboy. If you are familiar with Alan Moore’s work, you can suspect what kind of book this is, though I would venture to say that this is among his most accessible (though it may take a couple issues for it to click). People who love very personal tales with a slightly Gothic tone, that explore themes like vanity, depression and cultural degradation will be more than satisfied with this unearthed gem by the great bearded one.

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