Beautiful Darkness (Drawn and Quarterly) review

Beautiful Darkness from Drawn and Quarterly is a virtually flawless comic that will both delight and disturb!

Imagine all the aspects which make up your personality; the good or bad or greedy or adventurous versions of your inner self. Now picture these one-dimensional versions of you as teeny tiny people. Little people who make up a tiny community which lives inside of you. Of course the little people do not know who you are. They think they are wee individuals. They have tiny egos and tiny ids, and wear tiny polka dot dresses. And one day, when you die, they will all run around in a blind panic, flee your decaying body, and then attempt to survive in the real world. This, in a nutshell, is the story behind Beautiful Darkness.

Beautiful Darkness opens on a saccharine sweet scene: Aurora and her Prince are having tea. They share a chaste kiss. Suddenly the walls around them start to melt and drip. They manage to escape along with the rest of their community, by crawling out of the ears, nose, and mouth of a little girl who lay dead in a forest.

Oh my.

Beautiful Darkness is just that, employing a narrative that belies its precocious illustrations. The story only gets darker from there as the little community of sweetly drawn figures revert to their base nature in an effort to survive. But can you really blame them? After all, could you survive in the woods? What would you eat? You have to eat something. What about mushrooms? There are tons of mushrooms all over the damn forest. They can’t all be poisonous, right?

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I, for one, would be totally screwed and no amount of watching Survivorman would save my ass.

Despite her dire predicament, Aurora reunites with her Prince and takes charge of the situation, doing her best to keep her friends alive, bond with the local animals (and the strange giant who occasionally stomps by), and remain sunnily optimistic. Unfortunately for her, this delusion is difficult to maintain when everyone else has either discarded socially prescribed depictions of self, or at least learned to use them to their advantage.

Like Edward Gorey and his Gashlycrumb Tinies, Velhman weds the innocent with the macabre. His adorable tribe of lost characters are all the more grotesque for their lighthearted appearance. Imagine your sweet, old, granny getting savaged by a fluffy little Pomeranian. A disturbing thought which serves to remind the reader that no matter how cute the wrapping, animal nature will win out. And people will do some ugly things in the name of survival.

The illustrations are perfectly suited to the narrative, and are absolutely stunning. The design juxtaposes a richly detailed background with the flat, brightly colored cartoon-like drawings which the elderly among us will recognize as a throwback, 1970’s style. The illustrator, Kerascoet, is actually a team of artists, Marie Pommepuy and Sebastien Cosset from Paris, France. If you enjoy their work in Beautiful Darkness check out their website for more of the same.

My final say on the matter? Beautiful Darkness is nearly flawless in concept, writing, design, and execution. Fans of art and philosophy (and Edward Gorey) will totally geek out for this book!

Beautiful DarknessWritten By Fabien VehlmannArt By Kerascoet; 2014

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5 out of 5