Alan Moore: ‘Fashion Beast’ graphic novel review

These days, there’s a viscous reverence for everything that Alan Moore creates; an effusive prayer when the bearded Old God stirs to grant us mortals new words and/or hurl lightning bolts at DC’s affronts to the creator rights. In the eyes of many, Alan Moore can do no wrong.

And who can blame them? This is the man who, in the 1980s, created a stream of industry defining comics: Watchmen, Swamp Thing, Superman: For the Man who has Everything, Batman: The Killing Joke, V for Vendetta, From Hell. Moore birthed stories that today’s comics creators quite rightly still gushingly coo and sing over in interviews in order to woo the jaded old guard of readers.

So what to make of a story, from that period of unassailable creativity, that has only now been drawn to life? Especially since his more recent work hasn’t been so worthy of fanboy canticles.

In the 1985, at the height of his creative potency, Moore was approached by fashion designer Malcolm McLaren to draft a feature-length screenplay: a fashion industry oriented re-telling of Beauty & The Beast. It was never filmed. 27 years later, it was dusted off and repurposed for the comic market, like a vintage dress being cleaned and hemmed for a new wearer.

And it looks very good, if not quite next season chic, as we see transsexual coat-check girl Doll Seguin rise through the decadent world of fashion, coming face to face with the ‘beast’ – the disfigured fashion designer Celestine – and with it a damnably clever twist to the traditional fairy tale.

A product of an era of creative vigour, Moore’s script is sharper than his more recent efforts, and fits well into the comics template. Sequential adapter Antony Johnston’s done a marvellous job of keeping the intended filmic quality of Moore’s script in his layouts, while Fecundo Percio’s art is beautifully structured, but is almost too clean and crisp to reach the obscene level of glamour and grotesque extravagance that Moore’s script demands. Pages are good to look at, but there’s a feeling they should be more challenging to the eye.

It’s a product of the 80s, as much and as clearly as V for Vendetta and Watchmen – a strident anti-Thatcherite anti-war protest that never went out of fashion and which has set up camp in the middle of a nuclear winter. Today it lacks the dystopian bite of 30 years ago, but Moore’s disturbing details of war are still powerfully articulated, even sewing nuclear combat together with the superficiality of fashion, as people are forced to change clothes frequently in order to avoid radiation poisoning.

Fashion Beast is good. Not classic Moore, nothing to kneel for, but it’ll keep the disciples pleased. It’s a modern cut of a retro story. Mind you, for some, Alan Moore is always in fashion.

Published on 5 September 2013 by Avatar Press.

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