[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
Creepy cover is creepy. I admit this is why I requested it for starters.
This book gathers issues 1 to 6 of this comics series, in which “the Beauty” is a STD that a lot of people go out of their way to catch. Because once you're infected, thinning hair regrows, fat and flab disappear, wrinkles go away, and it's like a new chance at youth and beauty. The catch? Just a slight though permanent fever. Nothing to write home about, right? Until some of the infected people start to cough blood and self-combust. Not so nice anymore.
Time for detectives Vaughn and Foster to get into the limelight and try to figure out what's happening. They're part of a unit specialised in the Beauty—there are some anti-Beauty/terrorist groups out there, and their job is to prevent bombs from blowing up, hostages from being killed, and so on.
To be honest, I felt a few things were missing from this comics. While the idea was deliciously gruesome, I would've liked to learn more about the mechanics of the illness itself: apart from the constant fever, what would possibly make people self-combust/go headexplody in a matter of a few seconds? In itself, scientifically-speaking, it doesn't make much sense. Although the graphics involved kept making me shiver: there's something about that black blood, those black veins snaking along slim members, those shadows around eyes that can't see anything anymore and mouths opened on silent screams... Part of me couldn't look at the drawings, and another apart felt compelled to look.
The story also follows a somewhat typical “cops investigating a case and finding a lot of red tape (or worse) on their road” plot. It's both good and bad. Bad, as it makes for a not so original premise; good, because when it's the kind of plot you want to read about (and I did), then you get what you were expecting.
I found the art in general pretty efficient: in carrying the action, in depicting the horror of the half-mutilated corpses (that black blood, I tell you!), in
The “good guys” were a little bland at first (seasoned cop with younger/beautiful partner), but I grew to like them over these 6 issues. Foster wants to do what he feels is right, even though he knows it may get him fired—and then comes a surprise of his own he has to contend with. Vaughn is a strong person who doesn't hesitate to bend some rules when it's necessary, and has a vested interest in this from the beginning, since she's infected and hates it. And this is part of one of the themes explored throughout this series. Is beauty worth it when you know, every passing second of your life, every time you look in the mirror, that you're only “beautiful” because you're sick? Isn't it worrying? The Beauty appeared two years ago in that universe, and as every “young” illness, who can tell how it's going to evolve and possibly mutate? Obviously, here it's all about beauty being a symptom, but it can easily be translated into what some people in modern society are ready to do, the lengths they're willing to go to, in order to stay young and beautiful for as long as possible. And can they be blamed? Nobody wants to get old and wrinkled and flabby-looking. (Seriously—I'm not particularly beautiful, but when I hear someone say “only beautiful women fear getting old”, I can't help but think “that's not true, this fear is somewhere in each of us, though not with the same strength”.)
The authors also tried to develop their villains. It didn't work so well for some (I really couldn't care less about the psychopath with a mask who guts out and mutilates his victims), but it was good to see that it went well for others, like the shady CDC scientist who happens to have a wife and children, and then turns her coat when she realises everything's gone too far and it's her duty to help.
In spite of the few things I mentioned, I could easily enact my my suspension of disbelief here, and enjoy the art and the story. I'd definitely like to read issues 7 and beyond, if only to know what's going to happen: the end is half-cliffhanger, half tying quite a few things, so I'm wondering where it's going to go from now on.