Beautiful Darkness is a French comic book. (Wait, come back.) I implore you to read it. I understand if graphic novels don't work for you, I absolutely do. This isn't a manga or something you have to read in a specialized manner, It's a straightforward American-style comic book. Give it a try. I want to review this without spoiling any of the reveals in Beautiful Darkness. The story unfolds so elegantly that to disrupt the pacing would diminish the experience. Just put your library request in and come back later. Or keep reading. (But buying it works too.)
After a young girl dies suddenly in the forest the fairy tale creatures find themselves lost and disoriented in the woods. Aurora, being purest of heart, takes charge of the necessities of food and shelter while her prince forms an exploration team.
Vehlmann and Kerascoet (Kerascoet needs an umlaut on the e, but the alt text commands I know are being rejected by Wordpress. forgive me Kerascoet.) have created an absolute masterpiece. (Dascher's translations are smooth and natural.) It's been quite a while since I read a graphic novel that stayed with me for the rest of the week. Beautiful Darkness is deceptively straightforward, even light. It's a fairy tale in the most traditional sense of the word. Romance and quiet horror play out side by side in Beautiful Darkness while the reader considers the moral choices made within. There's a princess, of course (Aurora) and a prince or two. There are talking animals and girls lost in a forest and quests to overcome.
Beautiful Darkness is like stepping into a vintage Disney piece. The deceptively simple artwork reminded me of the late 1950's with a bit of Harriet Burns and Mary Blair mixed in. Aurora is separated from her prince by a natural disaster. The book follows her through a traditional fairy tale journey of self discovery as she seeks personal and romantic fulfillment. Like most fairy tale heroines, Aurora asks nothing for herself, she is focused on providing good for others. I don't think it's a coincidence that Aurora shares her name with Disney's Sleeping Beauty. There are enough woodland creatures to satisfy even Walt's mouse fetish. Not everyone in Beautiful Darkness gets their happy ending. It's the trip, not the destination.
* This review originally appeared at Love In The Margins.