Beautiful Darkness by Kerascoët and Fabien Vehlmann, translated by Helge Dascher
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Copyright Date: 2014
Reading Age: 14 and up
Reading Level: Grades 3-7
Awards: Nominated for an Eisner Award
Genre: Young Adult Horror
Subgenre: Dark Fantasy Comic
After a young girl dies in the forest, the fairies that lived in her imagination find themselves homeless and hungry. The optimistic, Cinderella-type character named Aurora strives to band the group together, organizing meals and finding shelter. Without a strong leader, the group soon finds themselves in a Lord of the Flies type situation, their society quickly devolving into chaos, murder, and subterfuge. These cutesy fairies may not be what they appear. Aurora's life becomes darker and stranger as the seasons change.
Beautiful Darkness begins with the death of a girl in the forest, and the deaths in the story just keep coming. The juxtaposition between the classical cuteness of the storybook characters and the evilness of their acts keeps the reader off balance. Princess Aurora, the positive, Cinderella-type character who pulls herself up by her bootstraps strives to keep the group of fairies together, fed, and sheltered. Her hope of them working together is soon put to the test as selfishness and the drive to survive overrun any feelings of togetherness or society. Deaths don't always occur on the page, keeping the level of dread high as the story unfolds. Chaos soon reigns in this land of soft watercolors and dewey landscapes. The allegory of surviving the human experiences comes home in the final pages of Aurora's point of view and what she is willing to do to continue to stay alive in the face of pettiness, greed, and betrayal. There are many disturbing images as the girl's body decays, becoming food for maggots and shelter for the more disturbed storybook characters. The casual violence is unsettling, and the sweetness of the images may leave readers gasping at the perceptions their minds contain.
Suddenly found homeless, a group of fairies must fight for survival in the forest. Chaos just may reign supreme.
About the Authors
Kerascoët is the joint pen name of the French illustrators, comics and animation artists Marie Pommepuy (b. 1978) and Sébastien Cosset (b. 1975). A married couple, they met while attending the Olivier de Serres art school. They chose their pen name in 2000 after the hamlet of Kerascoët in Brittany where Pommepuy grew up.
Kerascoët have worked on numerous bandes dessinées as well as the animated television series Petit vampire, children's books, and in advertising. Several of their comics have been published in English to critical acclaim. They were nominated for the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel for Beauty, and for an Eisner Award for their comic Beautiful Darkness. (About the author and photo from here.)
Fabien Vehlmann is one of the most prolific and remarkable present-day French comic scriptwriters, who has worked extensively for Dupuis and its magazine Spirou, and for the publishing house Dargaud. He has incorporated in mildly sarcastic humour in stories in nearly all genres, and has been labelled the "Goscinny of the 21st Century". He was born in Mont de Marsan and raised in Savoie. He has an education in management and spent his first working years with a theatre group.
He participated in a scriptwriting contest held by the magazine Spirou in 1996. He had his breakthrough two years later, when he created the crime comic 'Green Manor' with Denis Bodart. The comic, about a Victorian gentlemen's club, appeared irregularly in the magazine's pages until 2005, and made a comeback in 2011. Vehlmann additionally wrote a large amount of short stories, that were illustrated by artists like Maltaite, Feroumont, Clarke, Deth, etc. (About the author from here. Image from here.)
Fairy tales didn't start out as cute stories. Beautiful Darkness revisits the origins of fairies and turns cute art on its head. Speak to that.
Do creations from a child's imagination have a conscience? Why or why not?
Challenge issues: violence and murder
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This horror comic is packaged in a cute, fairy-tale-like format which will cause teens to second guess their interpretations of illustration and design. Fans of horror will also appreciate the ongoing sense of dread that follows the tale of fairies suddenly found homeless in an unknown forest.