Author: Fabien Vehlmann, Kerascoët
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
First Published: March 6, 2009
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, Horror
Kerascoët's and Fabien Vehlmann's unsettling and gorgeous anti-fairy tale is a searing condemnation of our vast capacity for evil writ tiny. Join princess Aurora and her friends as they journey to civilization's heart of darkness in a bleak allegory about surviving the human experience. The sweet faces and bright leaves of Kerascoët's delicate watercolors serve to highlight the evil that dwells beneath Vehlmann's story as pettiness, greed, and jealousy take over. Beautiful Darkness is a harrowing look behind the routine politeness and meaningless kindness of civilized society.
I don’t think that there is anything that could have properly prepared me for the dark themes that are presented so capriciously in this graphic novel. The corpse of a dead young girl lay decomposing in the woods, and out of her head springs forth tiny people that look like a mix between fairy tale stereotypes and regular girlish toys; dolls, ballerinas, princes, you name it.
The little people are forced to survive in the woods, going hungry, and needing shelter from the elements. Yet they are products of the fantasy of youth, many barely care about survival and act on their base instincts. Childhood gaiety gives way to horrible acts, a stark reminder of the sometimes casual cruelty of children.
Little Aurora is the only character that sees right from wrong, her belief that everyone around her seeks to work together is admirable, though naive. I loved seeing the growth of little Aurora as she goes through betrayals and learns to adapt. She is the little girl realized from the death of the real Aurora, a little girl who was very likely murdered in the woods. The truth of what happened to her is never really revealed but is merely implied.
Classic fables have always been dark, but over the last century, they have been reimagined and sterilized for mass consumption. What I loved about Beautiful Darkness was that it was a return to form, presenting the reader with a fairytale-like story that brings up questions about the darkness that exists within people, the human condition, and the horrors of childhood. The watercolor art is startlingly beautiful, with bright and happy characters and scenarios presented amongst macabre imagery. I really enjoyed this masterpiece and was so happy to stumble upon it.
“But this isn’t how things were supposed to turn out!”
Trigger Warning: Violence, Graphic Depicions of Death and Decomposition, Cannibalism