OOooooo, what a great looking book! I'm going to try to make this cover the new mental image in my head when I hear the words "Image Comics." Usually I picture something like Haunt, and then I picture a plate of pasta primavera thrown at a wall. 'Cause that's what it looks like.
This lovely book was created by Marian Churchland, hot off her stint on Elephantmen.
Churchland tells the story of a young, out of work artist named Colette, who is commissioned to sculpt a portrait for an otherworldly man known as "Beast." She moves into his dilapidated home, and becomes transfixed with her work—slowly shaping a huge block of marble into the likeness of this mysterious figure.
While the book has a fairy-tale feel to it, and was in part inspired by Beauty and the Beast, it's not a Fables-style modern retelling. It's not a love story—or if it is—it's about the complex relationship between an artist and her work. It's about Colette's obsessions with representing Beast, not the Beast himself. In fact, she has more of an affectionate relationship with this awesome dog, Bodi, who lives in Beast's house.
This book is beautifully understated, both in the story and the art. Colette spends a lot of the story padding about Beast's old house, drinking tea, taking baths—preparing to work on the sculpture at night, when Beast will often appear. Churchland captures that waiting part of art—the procrastination, the mulling it over before beginning a frenzy of work. But the pace of the story also creates great dramatic tension, and adds to the general creepiness the permeates the book.
Churchland's art is just rad. Simple pencils that still say a lot, and really effective grey (and greenish) tones that show dark nights and murky days in an old house.
I tend to tear through a lot of comics in a week, and never give them a second thought, but Beast has really stayed with me. I keep thinking about panels that I want to look at again. I'm actually going to leave it on the nightstand and reread soon. And I seriously never do that.