THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #1 by Mathieu Bablet and Edward Gauvin
The art of THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #1 carries each subsequent element of the story to masterful effect. Though we don’t learn much about the characters or why the world ended, the story shows us how the characters react emotionally to their fate. Plenty of shots of the city almost swallow the characters, enough to drive home the emotions that unite the heroes: overwhelming isolation and insignificance. Yet despite this, the characters persist, and THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #1 leaves its narrative on an optimistic note.
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I didn’t think it could be possible to fit a disintegrating metropolis into the petite frame of a comic book page, but THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #1 managed to do it.

More surprises await in this story written and illustrated by Mathieu Bablet and translated from French by Edward Gauvin.

The First Issue Sets the Stage for the Rest of the Series

THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #1 is a contemplative journey through the psyche of humans in the face of overwhelming defeat. It is not a thrilling, high-stakes action book.

CLICK: Read our review of REGRESSION #1 — another story that mixes the mundane with the macabre to brilliant effect!

Instead, the book strings together a series of high-conflict vignettes that buffet the characters — Wayne, Soham, and Jeremiah — like paper boats in an ocean. We see them struggle between choosing supplies or running from the mysterious foes that more than decimated humanity. In true horror fashion, only the shadows are shown of the monsters in pursuit. We see the characters struggle over risking their lives to save their comrade or letting him die. Sometimes, they just walk. Sometimes, it’s all they can do.

Image courtesy of Titan Comics

The story hints at what caused the apocalypse. Insects — maybe from outer space, maybe from Earth. Even the characters don’t seem certain. All they know is that their food has an expiration date, and they need to keep moving and finding more.

The Art Sets the Tone of the Apocalypse

From the opening pages, THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #1 emphasizes isolation as the hallmark of its apocalypse. This is no more obvious than in the scale of the city versus the scale of the remaining humans.

CLICK: Want a slightly different take on the apocalypse? Read our review of THE BLACK WINTER #1!

The story never gives a location for the setting, but the art does show the city’s depth. The city never appears entirely in a panel. Even the panoramic shots can’t capture the endless stories and crumbling stairways beneath. For some of the characters in the story, these endless corridors offer hope in the chance of finding more supplies and survivors. For others, the impossible dimensions remind them of their insignificance.

Despite the complexity of the setting, the colors are relatively simple yet effective. This is a desiccated and dusty city; as such, the world is grey. Yet a clever bit of coloring filters that grey world through the color of the evening sky: dark blue at night; burnt orange at twilight. In this way, there is a change for the characters in how they see the passage of time. It serves as a constant reminder of their own impending expiration date in a city that’s already died.

The Art Describes the Characters Better Than the Script

All of the humans are very stylized; tiny square faces that don’t betray much emotion. Instead, it’s the way that Bablet blocks the characters in the panels — what he chooses to show in their posture and physical movements. It’s the way a character hunches his back — or the way he walks when others run. Bablet knows the characters, and his pencils show an understanding of how expressive humans can be.

READ: Want another apocalypse story with distinct art? We reviewed THE BUNKER vol. 1, SQUARE ONE EDITION, a comic you shouldn’t miss!

Therefore, it’s not the words of the script that carry the emotional weight of the story. The first few pages of the book lack words at all, yet their silence speaks volumes towards the heart of the human alone.

Image courtesy of Titan Comics

We don’t need to know much about the characters to be invested in their plight. Of the main group, there is Wayne, the hardened leader, Soham, the slightly unhinged and Jeremiah, the eternal optimist. A lack of backstory or any detail of where they originate emphasizes the thrown-together nature of the band of survivors. It’s not so much who they were before the end of humanity, the book suggests, but who they are now and what they do with their reality.

Final Thoughts on THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #1

THE BEAUTIFUL DEATH #1 serves to remind me that, for most of us, death will come as a sigh — not some brutal and fast invasion by alien arthropods.

CLICK: For an analysis of the survival drama genre in video games, check out our article on the critically acclaimed THE LAST OF US!

Image courtesy of Titan Comics.

And yet, there’s a serenity to that that you see the characters wear. They’re all survivors, and they know what’s at stake, but they still hope — they still take time to be human. Issue #2 promises that the group will settle down once and for all, and maybe even start a garden, but I doubt it will last long for them.

I genuinely look forward to where this series is going. It has a beautiful aesthetic and an engaging atmosphere. There are more questions than answers in the introductory book, and that signifies a rich story that future installments will unfurl.

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