Writers: Jeremy Haun & Jason Hurley
Artist: Jeremy Haun
Colorist: John Raunch
Letterer & Designer: Fonografiks
The Beauty, Volume 1 explores a world in which a sexually-transmitted disease has infected half of America in the past two years. However, this is a disease people actually want to catch: a disease that makes one physically beautiful. Naturally, everything comes with a cost, and it’s detectives Foster and Vaughn who find themselves in both a battle against the Beauty, and in the middle of a conspiracy.
The Beauty may have originated from a simple concept, but writers Jeremy Haun and Jason Hurley have created an intricate world with boundless stories. While the first arc focuses on Drew Foster and Kara Vaughn investigating a string of Beauty-related deaths, it simultaneously examines the social, political, and cultural repercussions of a Beauty-infected society.
Think about it. Imagine a country in which half the population was perfectly beautiful. How would that shape your perceptions of the world and yourself? What desires or resentment would arise? And how do you regulate a disease that everyone wants? On the surface, the Beauty may appear harmless, but at its core, it’s still a disease. It may be argued that the disease isn’t about making people beautiful at all. The real disease, is making people socially ugly, regardless of having been infected. The Beauty encourages anger, jealousy, low self-esteem, segregation, violence, and even death.
Of course, there is an actual downside to the Beauty. Initially, people merely had a slight constant fever. But as readers learn almost immediately, those infected have begun burning from the inside out, combusting in the process. While admittedly hilarious from a visual perspective, it is serious business when the Beauty is killing people. Perhaps we shouldn’t be sleeping with infected people after all. Hm...
Foster and Vaughn, detectives of the Beauty Task Force, are two easygoing protagonists. They have incredible chemistry; they are longtime friends who understand each other well, and care about the other’s personal life as much as their professional one. However, due to the fast-paced story, much of their characterization is left to the imagination. While Foster has an assertiveness and soft side to him, despite a volatile nature when under great stress, there isn’t anything overwhelmingly interesting about him. Now Vaughn is a character you connect and fall in love with instantly. She is blunt, funny, gets things done, and is unbelievably beautiful… and that’s the tragedy right there. She is one of the many infected people who never wanted the Beauty, but got it anyways.
While The Beauty has an ensemble of antagonists and supporting characters, they are never fully fleshed out. Their backstories are either rushed or missing, with Foster and Vaughn judging the intentions of these characters too quickly. To a degree, these characters come off as simple archetypes that readers have to accept at face value. Again, it is the flaw of the story’s pacing. It is great that the first arc wraps itself up in an open-ended way, but it also leaves a lot of questions that may never be answered.
Supposedly the next arc will shift away from Foster and Vaughn, so that Haun and Hurley can focus on the effects the Beauty has had in the realm of politics, entertainment, and more. Whether the story goes back in time or forward is uncertain, but maybe we’ll learn more about the other characters after all. Let’s only hope moving away from Foster and Vaughn isn’t too problematic.
When it comes to the art of a comic centered around beauty, artist Haun has much on his plate to consider to get his message across. In the first issue, the discrepancy between the Beauty-infected and the not-so-infected was made quite obvious. The average people, including Foster, are drenched in ambiguities. The lines are softer and less defined, and characters are covered in shadows. They sort of blend in with the background. Only when there are close ups, like of Foster’s face, do we see “flaws” like wrinkles. This of course is all accentuated by colorist John Raunch’s green and blue undertones, which emphasize a character’s blandness. The Beauty-infected people on the other hand, have sharper features. Their skin tones are more vibrant, their eyes are sparkling, and their hair is perfect. For example, when we meet Vaughn, she is breathtaking. She stands out in a scene chock full of death and disease.
As the story progresses, the differences between the beautiful and not so beautiful becomes less apparent. Whether this is intentional or not by Haun and Raunch is unclear, but the action does indicate a commentary on what it actually means to be beautiful. Supporting characters like Brandon, Lundy, and Delante aren’t infected by the Beauty, but to say they aren’t in their own ways “beautiful” is a lie.
The Beauty, Volume 1 is a thrilling, fast-paced comic from beginning to end. The trade paperback by Image collects issues #1-6 and will hit comic book stores on March 23, and bookstores on March 29.
4.0 out of 5.0