I love a good satire.
I’m convinced that platforms like “Instagram” and “Snapchat” exist for the sole purpose of having people broadcast just how ridiculous – and often, vain – they are. Through technology, we seek to find our own fountain of youth, of validation.
We’re all guilty of this.
We can’t help it. It’s in our code.
Deep down, the human race is obsessed with beauty.
Jeremy Haun and Jason A. Hurley’s The Beauty simply brings this obsession to light – only to have it blow up in our faces. Literally.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
Trigger Warning: The Beauty contains explicit language, nudity, and violence.
The Beauty opens with an explanation of the eponymous STD, a highly desirable disease that transforms its carriers into slender and youthful beauties. While the world believes that Beauty can be achieved without any consequences, the reader quickly becomes a witness to a horrific death on a subway. Needless to say, internal combustion isn’t exactly a normal way for people to go.
Enter Detectives Drew Foster and Kara Vaughn.
Foster and Vaughn are every dynamic duo you see in buddy cop films. With everything nowadays being forced romances, their friendship is a breath of fresh air. It is further put to the test when Foster accidently catches The Beauty – making their mission to eradicate the disease all the more crucial. Of course, saving the world doesn’t come easy. There are several corrupt officials, including a senator and his hired gun Calaveras, who benefit from “selling” beauty through prostitution and other means. But against the odds, the detectives gain the support of a group of anti-Beauty terrorists and discover a cure by using Vaughn as their first subject.
The premise of this series is beyond clever. Haun and Hurley also do well to incorporate politics and religion into their twisted world. The former’s artwork is both beautiful and chilling, creating the perfect ambiance for the story. Of course, the story isn’t without its flaws. For the most part, I think the fast pace of The Beauty works in its favor. Like the heroes, it cuts right to the chase. However, the pacing sometimes forces the story to take on more predictable routes. As much as the writers try to build suspense, there are very few twists that caught me by surprise.
On the other hand, the satirical humor is well-executed. The scene in which Foster discovers his newly beautified state is one of the best in the volume. Rather than be delighted by his transformation, he curses to himself. Another scene is where the cold-blooded Calaveras has a handsome young man delivered to him room – presumably for sexual reasons – only to dissect him. This subversion of lust and romanticism is what makes The Beauty stand with several of the commentaries I’ve read in the past. Though there are only a couple, Haun and Hurley succeed in developing strong female and LGBTQ characters as well. Agent Brandon, a woman hired by the main antagonist, is a capable anti-heroine who turns against her employer once she learns of The Beauty’s deadly side-effects. She is also revealed to be a lesbian and a loving wife and mother. In addition, it is vaguely hinted at that one of the anti-Beauty terrorists is gay.
I appreciate how Brandon’s sexuality is not the sole thing that defines her; it is one of many facets of the character. On the other hand, the racial diversity could have been handled better. There was a significant lack of people of color until the latter half of the volume, and even so, only one of them is fully fleshed-out. Regarding dialogue, there were an excessive amount of expletives interspersed throughout the story. While this in itself isn’t a problem, I felt that it was often used as short-hand for building suspense or showing how “hard-boiled” a character was.
But in weighing the pros and cons of The Beauty, I can still say that it was a thrilling ride. With an intriguing premise, strong characters, and plenty of satire, Haun and Hurley’s work will be sure to stick with you for a long time.