Friday, September 26, 2014

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet

The cover shows Aurora
next to the hand of a
human corpse.
A quirky combo of sweet and macabre, Beautiful Darkness is an astonishing full colour creation by French comics artists Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet. On the back cover of the Drawn & Quarterly English language translation, it is aptly labelled an "anti-fairy tale."

Take Thumbelina, Hansel and Gretel, Moomin, The Borrowers, Lord of the Flies and Gulliver's Travels, mix them together, and then twist the storytelling dial over to the darker end.

The action takes place in a forest, where a dead school girl sprawls, slowly decomposing. A loose community of Lilliputian beings scavenge for food and tools from the corpse and its accoutrements. They crawl in and out of its body cavities. They play amongst maggots as they hatch. ("Hee hee! That tickles!")

The community members are a varied assortment of doll-like creatures. They have big eyes and are portrayed in a cartoony style. In contrast, the corpse and one other (living) human are realistically illustrated, as are the insects and animals of the forest.

The lives of the miniature beings are precarious. They die in such a variety of black comedy misadventures that Andy Riley's The Book of Bunny Suicides comes to mind. Their challenge is to sort out the way their society will function... or malfunction. Who will lead them best: kind and selfless Aurora... or vain and ruthless Zelie?

Readalike pictorial works: Temperance (Cathy Malkasian); Pinnochio (Winshluss); Through the Woods (Emily Carroll); My First Kafka (Matthue Roth & Rohan Eason) and Ant Colony (Michael DeForge).

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