Empty Inside: The Beauty, Volume 1

The Beauty Volume 1The Beauty, Volume 1

Story By: Jeremy Haun & Jason A. Hurley
Art By: Jeremy Haun
Published: March 16, 2016
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Horror, Thriller, Mystery
Format: Paperback
Length: 164 pages

The Beauty Volume 1 has one cool idea and not much else: there is a new sexually transmitted disease that makes you beautiful. If you contract it, you become young, thin and pretty within minutes. The only apparent side effect is a constant low-level fever, so people go out of their way to get infected. It isn’t long before half the population has The Beauty.

There are factions who object to The Beauty for political and religious reasons, but the real problem is that people with The Beauty are starting to spontaneously combust and nobody knows why. When a woman combusts in public, two police detectives (one of them infected) try to find an explanation. They face opposition from government officials trying to cover it up and a shady pharmaceutical CEO who just wants to make a profit. The story turns into a by-the-numbers conspiracy thriller/mystery after only a few pages.

One of my biggest problems with The Beauty is that I didn’t care about the main characters at all. They are generic pretty people who only want to Solve The Crime And Stop The Conspiracy. Neither of them has an identifiable personality and their dialog is basically interchangeable.

The villains get slightly more characterization and/or back story, if only because we see them doing things that aren’t necessarily related to the case at hand. That doesn’t mean their motivations are clear, however.

One villain wears a skull mask and eviscerates his victims to show that he’s obviously a very bad dude, but his appearances in the story are all gore and no tension because his actions feel utterly impersonal.

When I finished reading this volume, I had to check to find out if it was a mini-series or an ongoing title. It felt like a complete (if underdeveloped) story, so I wanted to know if my instincts were correct. It turns out that it is an ongoing series even though the sixth issue wraps up a lot of threads and ends with a note of finality.

One thing I did like about The Beauty was the art. It has a clean, realistic style that emphasizes the absurd horror of spontaneous combustions. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t give the art much to work with, so the book feels slight and generic.

After reading so many disappointing comics with boilerplate stories and undeveloped characters, it’s starting to feel like a problem with the medium. There are exceptional writers like Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky and Brian K. Vaughan working in comics, but the ability to fully develop a character in a few panels seems like a rare talent.

Unfortunately, The Beauty doesn’t deliver on the clever idea at its core because the characters are personality-free and generic.

DISLIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

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Mind MGMT, Volume 1: The Manager by Matt Kindt

Mind Mgmt 1 - Matt Kindt & Brendan WrightPublished: April 3rd, 2013
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Genre(s): Graphic Novel
Format: Hardcover
Length: 200 pages

The most striking thing about Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT is the art style, done with loose pen and watercolor sketches. It’s like nothing I’ve seen before in a graphic novel, and definitely gives the book a unique flavor. I will admit, however, that although the art is interesting, it isn’t entirely to my personal taste. I like that Kindt did something original with his style, but I had a hard time accepting the art as a stylistic choice instead of something that just felt a bit amateurish. A variant cover by Gilbert Hernandez included at the end of the book made me wish for a version of this story told using Hernandez’ clear, bold style instead.

As for the book’s story, it focuses on an investigative journalist named Meru who is trying to write a follow-up to her bestselling first book after two years with no success and dwindling funds. When she hears a recap of a story about a strange “amnesia flight” where all the passengers lost – and never regained – their memories, Meru calls her agent and suggests it as the topic of her second book. Her agent is skeptical, but agrees to fund a trip to Mexico for Meru to investigate a possibly connected event and try to track down a missing member of the amnesia flight, a man named Henry Lyme.

Throughout the book, an unnamed stranger dispassionately narrated Meru’s adventures, claiming she is following a series of “breadcrumbs” left behind to point her in the right direction. Everything Meru does seems pre-ordained, and she finds herself unable to escape ever-present feelings of déjà vu, or the CIA agents and unkillable couple who follow her every move. Each chapter of the book includes a case file on an individual with supernatural powers recruited by a mysterious agency called Mind Management. The more Meru uncovers, the more it becomes clear that Mind Management is the source of it all. All of this strangeness converges in a meeting between Meru and the man named Henry Lyme.

Although the story is full of interesting concepts, it feels like the tone of the narration keeps everything at arm’s length. Character development is minimal, and the dialogue is all very one-note. Henry Lyme’s story is the most interesting part of the book, but in the end I didn’t get very invested because the characters felt like tools of the plot and not real human beings. This is the first volume of an ongoing series, but I’m not sure where the story might go from here; the book wraps up enough that this could serve as a standalone story.

Overall, I thought the book was a decent enough read, but I don’t plan on reading further volumes of this series.

LIKED IT
LIKED IT

Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

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