“Is this Cinderella??… oh woah, the Prince is a prick… wait.. what… it’s getting weirdly macabre… and that character kind of looks like Shin Chan… and oh no… it’s not all that horrifying… maybe more like ‘Alice in Wonderland’…. or “Gulliver’s Travels”… it looks like Thumbellina now, but like she is lost in wonderland….well… this is weird…”
It’s hard not to think of a 100 things as you read the first few pages of the graphic novel “Beautiful Darkness” by Fabien Vehlmann, which starts off as a mish-mash of fairy-tales, but is nothing like any of the Disney version as the plot thickens, and gets grimmer than the original tales collected by Brothers Grimm.
The hero of this tale is Aurora, who is just about to have some cake with the Prince when huge blobs of blood starts falling on them. She soon finds herself crawling out of the body of a dead girl into a wild forest, just like a lot of other little people like her, who try to wander out, without any clue as to how they will survive. So Aurora forgets the Prince and tries to get things in order, like giving out food to the hungry. And while for a while, everybody seems to love and fawn over the heroine, the peace is short-lived.
The illustrations are done by Kerascoët, they are child-like, done with an effect that makes them look like dreamy water-paintings. Yet, the things happening around Aurora are straight out of a nightmare. There’s hunger, betrayal, madness, murder and complete loss of humanity in the open depths of the forest. Fabien Vehlmann’s tale is dark, macabre, whimsical and at points feel like a bunch of odd incidents stringed together. There are a lot of characters that are constantly up to no good and towards the end, strangely, all of it makes sense.
The cover might make it look like the book is meant for kid, but it’s a disturbing tale meant for adults, so please, if you are reading this – do not gift this book to a pre-teen reader. Some might even call it a ‘fucked up’ book, so its advisable that you not read this book if you are already in a disturbed state of mind, it might just unsettle you further.
The author & illustrator through this deceptively innocent looking tale (the illustrations look like cute nursery book panels) displays how the most noble of hearts can descend into brutal madness, if given enough time around evil people. Aurora start off as a hero and ends up being the anti-hero. The climax is befitting of all the gory little twists the story throws up.
‘Beautiful Darkness’ delivers exactly what the title promises – a dark tale drawn beautifully.
It’s a 4/5 for me.
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