A new STD is doing the rounds, except this is one that many people actually want, as those who contract the Beauty become effortlessly sculpted into the ideal of facial and physical perfection. Two years after the virus’ initial appearance, a horrific side effect comes into play, when the early infected begin spontaneously combusting. When police detectives Foster and Vaughn, investigate the deaths they soon find themselves embroiled in a dark conspiracy.
Sometimes the simplest of ideas can lead to the most complex of stories. An STD that makes people beautiful is a basic yet imaginative premise, and its presentation leads to an examination of how society would be affected by it. The Beauty has proliferated to such an extent that half the United States is now infected, and is such an integrated part of everyday life, that Foster and Vaughn are part of a specialist unit dealing with Beauty-related crimes. Debates rage endlessly on whether the virus is something to be embraced or condemned (and by extension those infected by it, intentionally or not); hate crimes have a new classification; and even some religious leaders have things to say on it. Some themes are only faintly alluded to or go completely unmentioned (such as that people regularly engaging in unprotected sex wilfully, expose themselves to the still very real dangers we were all warned about as adolescents), but will doubtless be brought up as the series continues.
Having an art mandate of certain characters needing to be pointedly more attractive than others is an interesting challenge, and the required contrast is achieved with distinction. This isn’t to say that everyone uninfected is butt-ugly, but the features of those with the disease have the kind of photoshopped uber-perfection seen in fashion mag pictorials, their faces so unmarred by the slightest blemish they are almost unreal, while their skin even has a visible glow. It’s also interesting to observe that the beauty into which people are transformed conforms to the modern and western ideals of what constitutes physical attractiveness, something with little consistency throughout the world.
Besides the underlying social commentary, the comic is also a taut thriller, as Foster and Vaughn are hunted by a sadistic hitman in a sugar skull mask with an army of mercenaries, while greedy corporate sociopaths find ways to monetise anything and place a quantifiable value on human life. At a mere six issues, this first volume of The Beauty a highly condensed story, but the wider concepts it presents will allow for a great deal of future expansion.
THE BEAUTY VOLUME 1 / AUTHOR: JEREMY HAUN, JASON A HURLEY / ARTIST: JEREMY HAUN, JOHN RAUCH / PUBLISHER: IMAGE COMICS / RELEASE DATE: 24TH MARCH