By: Alan Moore (script), Moore & Malcolm McLaren (story), Antony Johnston (sequential adaptation), Facundo Percio (art)
The Story: Can the fashion house survive the death of its founder?
Review (with SPOILERS): Hmm… Now that Fashion Beast is over, I’m not really sure what the ending meant. This has been a very deep and thought-provoking series, so I’m unclear whether there was a deep meaning that kinda went over my head OR perhaps the story simply doesn’t have a powerful ending (explaining why this story sat undeveloped for ~30 years).
The issue basically follows the events as the fashion house created by Celestine tries to continue past Celestine’s death. There is a difference of opinion in the House. The two old women want to continue the House using Celestine’s discarded designs; they have LOTS of those and it is enough to keep the House running for years. It might not have the bolt of inspiration that Celestine’s best work had, but it would pay the bills and keep the lights on. Celestine’s plan was to leave the House to one of his lowest workers. This young man has been a supporting character throughout the series, but I honestly cannot remember his name. Anyway, this young man wants to have the House feature designs of his own creation. He doesn’t do the same style of classic fashion that Celestine did – his style is more punk/urban – but it his own and it comes from an honest passion for creation.
Eventually, Doll is forced to choose sides between the two directions and mayhem ensues. It is a GOOD ending, but I can’t quite decide if it is a GREAT ending because I can’t quite wrap my head around all the details. But there are juicy details to attempt to decipher:
1). Is Doll a boy or a girl? – I’ve assumed for most of the series that Doll is a man dressing as a woman, but there was a commenter on a Fashion Beast review 4-5 months ago who made a pretty good argument that Doll is actually a girl. Let’s just say that it isn’t 100% clear what her gender is and that connects nicely with the entire appearance vs. reality theme of the series. At the end, she ends up possibly going to bed (it is a bizarre scene) with the new fashion designer, but great artistic care is taken to avoid showing anything that would reveal her/his gender.
2). Power of creation? – We know that Alan Moore is passionate about creator rights, but he wrote Fashion Beast before the whole Watchmen debacle with DC. It’s just very interesting to draw a parallel between (a) his story of a fashion house that is going to try to milk the discarded ideas of a brilliant creator after his death and (b) his known opinions about how Marvel/DC keep publishing the same superhero characters stories year after year after year.
3). Power of inspiration? – Continuing from this idea of creation, the series clearly shows that Celestine didn’t want his fashion house to continue with his weaker ideas; Celestine wanted to give this young man a chance to design what HE wanted even though it was 100% different from anything Celestine would have designed himself–and even though this young man had outright disdain for Celestine’s designs. Celestine didn’t know if the young man would be any good as a designer (and the story ends before we discover whether he is eventually successful), but Celestine probably saw a passionate person with a vision and wanted THAT to be the legacy of his house.
4). The arm? – While flipping back through the issue to write this review, I noticed that the manikin arm that Doll uses to bludgeon the nasty old lady came off a manikin that looks a LOT like Celestine. It’s kinda an interesting idea. Doll and the old lady were fighting over whether Doll would stay “loyal” to Celestine’s C-list ideas or would she go along with the new direction at the fashion house. Interesting that Doll settled the fight with a”Celestine” manikin arm (the same arm that drew all the originally inspired drawings).
5). Final scene? – My goodness–what to make of THIS. We see the bloody finale of the fashion show and then the young man designer carries Doll and her tattered wedding dress back to Celestine’s drawing chamber. There Doll gets naked and the young man strips to the waist and then proceeds to just look at himself in Celestine’s warped hand mirror. But, in the background, a naked Doll is going through all these odd, sexy poses in the pile of Celestine’s discarded drawings. These are not normal sexy poses that indicate she wants the young man to join her on the floor RIGHT NOW; it’s most like she’s making love to someone who isn’t visible. Celestine? Weird…
The only thing that really holds this issue back is that I’m not sure the whole thing ties together. I mean, when I look at these juicy elements (and I just rattled off 5 compelling ideas in a 22 pages comic book), I can clearly see that they are “puzzle pieces”, but I’m not sure that the pieces assemble a single coherent puzzle. Did you ever buy a puzzle at a yard sale and put it together only to realize that it was missing a piece OR that it included a couple of pieces from other puzzles? That’s kinda how I feel about Fashion Beast after one reading. I GREATLY look forward to rereading this challenging series.
Artistically, this final issue is just aces. I think the only work that I’d seen from Percio before was Anna Mercury and that was much more action packed and science fiction oriented. [Note: I’d love it if we could finish Anna Mercury instead of leaving it dangling with only a few issues to go. C’mon guys, it’s only been ~3 years since the last issue.] The point is that Fashion Beast is much more sedate and quiet. It thrives on how well Percio can illustrate an Alan Moore script EXACTLY the way he is supposed to – otherwise the story won’t work quiet right – and how well he can make us connect with the characters. I love Doll. Over these 10 issues, Doll really came to life as a three-dimensional character and much of that is due to Percio’s work. I’ll really be looking forward to whatever he does next.
Conclusion: A thought-provoking ending to a very challenging series. I really look forward to a reread because I’m sure this is a story that will just get better and better.
– Dean Stell