By: Alan Moore (script), Moore & Malcolm McLaren (story), Antony Johnston (sequential adaptation), Facundo Percio (art) & Hernan Cabrera (colors)
The Story: An old script from the great Alan Moore comes to life.
Review: For starters, this comic has a non-traditional background. Supposedly, this is a story that Alan Moore and Malcolm McLaren (manager of the Sex Pistols) wrote as a movie screen play back in the mid-1980s. That’s the same era when Moore was writing Watchmen, Swamp Thing, V for Vendetta and a few others. Then, I guess this screen play lay idle for ~25 years before someone (Avatar??) decided to dust it off and have Antony Johnston adapt it sequentially.
The interesting thing about this first issue is that I read it as if it was a pure “Alan Moore Comic Book”. Moore started in the business as a cartoonist (a pretty good one too) and is famous for writing highly detailed scripts that dictate many of the visual storytelling elements. The artist still has to pull it off, but if you see a cool visual technique in a Moore comic, chances are high that Moore came up with the idea and not the artist. So, when you read a Moore comic, you really do want to take the time to really study the panels and pages: They’re framed that way and showing what they show for a damn good reason. There usually isn’t anything in an Alan Moore comic that is haphazard
Even with the unique background, I found this issue to have a lot of traditional Moore fastidiousness about the visuals. At first I wondered if Antony Johnston was just super-diligent in adapting Moore’s work, but there’s also a good chance that a Moore screenplay is just as obsessive about the visuals as is a Moore comic script. Thus, if you were avoiding this because it isn’t “pure Moore”, I wouldn’t use that as a reason to stay away. It feels like Alan Moore.
As for the story itself, although a few internet reports said it is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, it felt more Phantom of the Opera to me. The world the story occurs in is truly weird. It almost has a steampunky vibe to it as the setting seems very “industrial revolution” in its filth, dirt and hulking factories, but there are also TVs and the folks are concerned about nuclear war….so it isn’t 1910 either. Then we learn that the entire city revolves around a lace factory owned by dirty and reclusive person and that much of the city is obsessed with fashion…..even though they’re filthy and dirty. It’s a weird setting, but a compelling one. I hesitate to call the recluse the titular “Fashion Beast” because that’s to direct for Moore….surely the true Fashion Beast will end up being the general population of the city or something else of that nature.
We also meet an interesting cast of characters through an intense medley of pages and panels that show a bunch of people in a boarding house getting ready to head out on the town. One of these characters seems to be the central “Beauty” (or Christine since this seems more Phantom to me) and we see her as she heads out to work and has an interesting night working as a coat-checker at some dance club. She’s interesting and somewhat peculiar and I’m curious to see what becomes of her tale.
Of course, a lot of the allure is that this is an Alan Moore comic. The details are fussed over. For example, we see panels of the “Beast” counting out tarot cards. I don’t know anything about tarot, but I’ll bet that Moore does and I’ll further bet that the cards the Beast is turning over are relevant to the action in the comic. That’s the beauty of Alan Moore and why he’s the best writer of comics ever: He makes me want to go read about tarot cards – something I’ve never cared about in my lifetime – just so I can access the second layer of his storytelling.
The art is lovely. I first became acquainted with Facundo Percio from his work on the Anna Mercury series. The only negative of seeing his name here is it makes me doubt that we’ll ever see the last couple issues of that outstanding collaboration between Percio and Warren Ellis…..sigh….. What’s striking about Percio’s work here is how well he creates atmosphere. This is a story that thrives on its atmosphere and also requires the reader to care about the central character. If those two elements don’t come off, the comic doesn’t work. I also think that it takes a special artist to work on an Alan Moore project where a large part of the job is executing Moore vision and also finding places to wedge in your own personal touches. And…Percio has to do all of that knowing that the angry bearded man will definitely say something nasty if he thinks his 25 year old work is not well adapted.
I wish we got to see more of Percio in the US.
Conclusion: A very good first issue that feels very “Alan Moore” even if it isn’t a traditional Moore comic book.
– Dean Stell