Book Review – Hubert & Kerascoet, Beauty

by Rachel S

As if I didn’t have enough nice things to say about Miss Don’t Touch Me, I at the same time came by a copy of Hubert & Kerascoet’s Beauty.

Quick summary: A plain girl makes a wish of a fairy to be beautiful, with unforeseen and dire consequences for her and everyone around her (essentially, there’s so much more but I’ll get to that).I have a couple moments during this review when I dont-quite-spoil but do discuss events or themes in the book that you wouldn’t know at outset. Be warned!

The art style in Beauty has simpler lines than Miss Don’t Touch Me, and the coloring is very vibrant. But what I really liked most about this book was how the art style interacted so so well with the story, specifically with the nature of Coddie/Beauty’s “beauty” itself (Quick Spoiler, sort of: the protagonist is only granted the magical perception of beauty. Her physical features are left unchanged, but just masked by the perception of attractiveness). This “flaw” in the wish is brilliantly expressed through the artists’ rendering of the protagonist, and highlights the duality of her life after being placed under the fairy’s spell, and the issues that her “beauty” raises.

It had a similar storytelling style to Miss Don’t Touch Me, in that while the primary focus is on one character (in this case Coddie/Beauty), the relationships between other characters that the story develops, explores, and intricately ties into the larger storyline, add even further weight to the overall themes of the graphic novel.

I also walked into this one thinking “oh, some girl realizes the error of her ways when she wishes for beauty, and understands that it isn’t everything, stuff happens, then a happy ending.” That was my own fault. Because the other thing that makes this story stand out is the fact that the protagonist is well characterized as being flawed in this regard – proud, vain, and selfish – and it takes her ages to realize what her “beauty” truly does for everyone else. But the story also explores how that perception can become so much more. It dances around how beauty (or the perception thereof) can be used, for worse and then for (small Spoiler) better. The story very subtly questions the nature of power – not just in terms of governing power but the simple power that people hold over each other, and why. This is mostly due, I think, to the fact that it is made clear throughout the story (Spoilerish) that the “beauty” that dominates the narrative is only subjective. Although at face the premise of the story is simple, it is testament to the brilliance of the writer/colorist and the artists that taking such a simple story and through developing strong, diverse, and well-integrated characters creates a powerful saga about desire, love, and the concept of beauty.

I probably could have been much more eloquent about this one, but I truly adored this book. I’m a sucker for deep, thought-provoking themes and lovely artwork, and this book hit both those on the head and then some. Again, the subject matter suits it better for older teen & adult readers, it has some pretty mature themes & scenes.

The Details!

Kerascoet and Hubert, Beauty. Hardcover. New York: ComicsLit (imprint of NBM Publishing), 2014. Initially published in French by Dupuis, ©2011-2013. English translation © NBM. ISBN: 978-1-56163-894-9

Available on Amazon (in Kindle Edition too~!)

Notes: The materials reviewed here are not my intellectual property, but the opinions expressed are! Anyway, here’s the follow-up to last week’s review, because I adore both these volumes. Comments welcome! – B&C