Hey everybody, it’s melaredblu [Dan note: creator of the webcomic Princess Chroma, which you should also read] again, back with another webcomic to shamelessly gush about. This time around, I’m going to be reviewing Megan Kearney’s Beauty and the Beast, a poetic, intelligent, and all-around beautiful adaptation of the classic fairy tale.
If you’ve never heard the story of Beauty and the Beast, then let me be the first to congratulate you on your ability to make a comfortable home under a rock. Not everyone can pull that off.
If there is anything of note to point out, it’s that this adaptation is obviously based on the original fairy tale, rather than the Disney film. For example, the Beast is educated and philosophical, rather than childish and angry, and Beauty has an actual family, instead of a single father. The author actually fleshes out a lot of these elements that got left out of the animated film. More on that later.
To put it shortly, this comic is everything you would expect Beauty and the Beast to be, and what it does, it does excellently.
How I Found it:
Usually, how I found a comic doesn’t factor much into why I like it. This time, however, it actually matters a lot. See, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s possibly the very first movie I still remember seeing as a child and I have only grown to love it more over time. When I first read the original fairy tale, I was a bit underwhelmed by it because it wasn’t much like the movie I loved, even if the movie itself was just another retelling.
I happened to see the avatar for this comic on Comic Fury’s recent updates. I may prefer the Disney version, but I do get curious about other adaptations of the story, even if I usually end up writing them off as inferior. I checked the comic out and ended up binge-reading the entire thing two or three times before subbing. I liked it that much. I’m a fussy, prissy, uptight, hard-to-please reader when it comes to remakes of beloved classics. I’m the kind of person who will, without shame, say I don’t like it because it’s different. Well, this comic is different. And I am crazy about it. It should be taken as the highest of praise when I say I love this webcomic just as much as I love the Disney film.
Why I Like It:
The art got my attention right away. The one thing I’m not picky about when it comes to retelling this story is art style. It doesn’t have to look like Disney as long as it looks good doing things its own way, and boy does it!
This black-and-white art shows considerable technical mastery and elegance. There are no frills or tricks to it, the art simply looks perfect because it’s done perfectly, whether the image is simple or elaborate. When things do need to get dramatic, the art goes heavy on the blacks to create an atmospheric chiaroscuro effect and where flashbacks are needed without spoiling too many secrets, the artist uses silhouettes obscure details and still convey emotion with the use of a few simple details. But beyond those techniques, there really are no special frills to how things are drawn. It’s just the work of an obviously talented illustrator who needs nothing but black and white to make the image exactly what it needs to be, and I cannot help but greatly admire skill like that.
Obviously, I like everything about the art, but the way Ms. Megan illustrates expressions deserves a special mention. The Beast in particular has a very wide range of facial expressions and body language, from feral and terrifying to adorkable and sweet. If you couldn’t read the text, you’d still find yourself wanting to sympathize with him based solely on how he emotes. The human characters of the story also emote strongly and it’s easy to get a sense of what’s on their minds just by looking at them. The art is effective at carrying what needs to be said, instead of relying on the text to do all the heavy lifting. Just look at how palpable Beauty’s anger on this page is:
Of course, if you skip the text, you miss the thing that I find most impressive about this comic. As this is a fairy tale taking place “Once Upon A Time”, a certain level of poetic flair is almost requisite to get just the right feeling. However, poetic speech is notoriously hard to write well. For an amateur, the result is usually stilted at best and laughable at worst. Not so with Ms. Megan’s writing. Her characters are able to converse using well-spoken yet organic dialog that covers a multitude of ranges: dry and sarcastic, sincere, nervous, spiteful, and so on. Many of the characters, especially the Beast, are delightfully eloquent while still sounding like actual people instead of wannabe Shakespeare. It makes the comic that much more enjoyable when the dialog is so natural and yet so beautiful to read.
Lastly, I would like to praise the characterization, especially between the titular protagonists, who have a very potent mix of tension and chemistry. They’re both shown to be intelligent, compassionate, and deeply conflicted people without their own personal issues and history beyond just the plot device that brings them together. They have a variety of interests and subtle quirks unique to themselves and they bond over these small quirks as much as they do over the larger circumstances. When romance starts to tenuously form between them, it feels as though it happens on its own, rather than it being because the plot demands it.
Aside from those two, we also have Beauty’s family, which also has a robust dynamic. Everybody has a distinct personality and we see little snippets of their lives together shown through flashbacks. Seeing how Beauty interacts with her family makes it all the more understandable why she puts her life at risk for them and also why she wants to return to them. At the same time, seeing how her relationship develops with the Beast and how much effort they both put into trying to understand each other, one can’t help feeling her internal conflict between wanting to get closer to him and still missing her family.
Like the art, the writing has a sort of simple perfection, weaving in just enough details to keep things interesting without getting too elaborate and complicated. The author knows just how to work her narrative threads and where to tie them together. Even the chapter title pages add to the plot, hinting to the audience what’s to come using flower language.
Beyond that, the whole narrative is peppered with lots of classical references and allegories. Some are subtler than others, but all those little nods show an incredible amount of thought went into the entire project. The writing expects the audience to put some thought into it, too. It’s the kind of story you really have to read more than once to really digest all it has to offer. For a comic based on such a simple tale, it really makes the most of it.
Things I Think Could Be Better:
I honestly can’t offer any suggestions to improve this. Not to say the comic doesn’t have the tiny error here and there. I could nitpick on things like errant typos, but those things aren’t important. As far as the comic sets out to tell a story, it does it as perfectly as possible and the creator clearly knows what she’s doing.
[Dan thought: Maybe a larger social media presence, or upgrading to a stand alone site?]
If my words haven’t convinced you that this isn’t worth at least looking at by now, then all I can say is you must not be the right audience for this story. For my part, I’d say anybody who likes fairy tales even in the slightest should give this comic a read. I can’t say enough good things about it, and I am certain you won’t be disappointed.