Written by: Alan Moore (Screenplay) and Anthony Johnston (adapted)
Art by: Facundo Percio
Published by: Avatar Press
Fashion Beast, one of Alan Moore’s almost lost works, finally gets the full treatment it deserves, collected in one graphic novel from Avatar Press.
Written as a screenplay by Moore in 1985 when he was approached by The Sex Pistols’ Malcolm McLaren to write a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast, it is adapted here for the page by Johnston and illustrated by Percio; it’s a dark tale with so many layers – as is the norm with Moore – that it can be read and re-read and something new gleamed each time.
It tells the story of Doll, a beautiful but outcast girl who lives in a world on the brink of nuclear Armageddon and works a job as a coat collector at a nightclub in an existence full of people on the poverty line where jobs don’t exist and mankind is at the end of its collective tether.
When her life is turned upside by someone who lives in the same building, she is introduced to the world of Celestine, a reclusive clothes designer who is feared and revered in equal measure in a world where the only distractions from the harsh reality is fashion and cat-walks and living mannequins.
Fashion Beast is a dark tale of despair, hope, deception and obsession. At the heart of the tale lie three characters, all of whom have an agenda and a reason that, at first glance have little relevance to each other but that soon spiral out of control, all heading in one direction ultimately.
Many of Moore’s trademarks are here, fear of nuclear war, a world that sits on the edge of ours where things are recognisable yet totally alien as if at some point in the past this reality took a wrong turn and headed there instead of here. It’s full of realised, yet broken characters and my god it’s dark.
Another trademark of Moore’s work is the layers; this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and works as one. A simple tale of a woman, a man and the one caught in the middle. But it also works as a parable, a warning and a lesson. Curiously, for a tale written almost 20 years ago, it is very relevant today, in a society that revolves around music stars and shows like X-Factor while the world is on the brink of war at almost any minute and the public is encouraged to pay no attention. Disinformation is rife in Moore’s world and ours.
Moore’s writing is sharp, but it’s not as on the money as Watchmen or V For Vendetta. Maybe it’s Johnston’s adaptation that loses the magic or maybe it’s simply lost in translation from screen to page, but either way, so long as you expect a Moore-lite tale you should walk away happy enough.
Percio’s art is detailed and dark but for some reason doesn’t hold up to Lloyd on V or Gibbons’ on Watchmen – in many ways who’s would – but it just left me feeling unattached. I could appreciate it but I couldn’t feel it.
This all said, Beast is a well written tale that flows well and will keep you glued until the last page but it’s far from Moore’s greatest work.
So overall, adequate but not satisfying, if you can lower your expectations you may well find something to love here, but for many it’s a big short coming.