December 20, 2009 | Graphic novels

beast 1

A 10-foot tall block of Italian marble, a fat cheque and time is everything a young sculptor dreams of.
When Colette Alleine meets the benefactor providing all of this, it quickly becomes a nightmare.

The slim, raven-haired artist at the heart of Vancouverite Marian Churchland’s impressive debut graphic novel, Beast (Image Comics, $15.99 U.S., 152 pages) can’t afford to look a gift horse in the mouth when her father, a former art dealer, sets her up with a job that will cover her rent for a year.
All she knows, as she arrives at the bedraggled old house in the unremarkable neighbourhood just a dozen blocks away from her apartment, is a rich man wants a portrait of himself done in Carrera marble.

Then she comes face to face with Beast.

Dark, almost faceless — seemingly made up of shadows — he is terrifying.

After Colette recovers from the shock of their first meeting, her benefactor tells her the story of the enormous stone — how a young woman who lived long ago in Florence had begun to sculpt it but never finished and how he wants Colette to complete it in the form of his likeness.

Still frightened, but unmistakably intrigued, Colette agrees to stay and complete the commission hoping both to find the hidden masterpiece in the stone and learn the truth about the mysterious man of shadows.

Churchland’s labour of love is a striking blend of words and images. Loosely based on the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast, it was started in 2006 and slowly polished over the subsequent two years as she worked on other projects (like an eye-catching stint on Richard Starkings’ critically acclaimed series, Elephantmen).

The black-and-white art mixed with subtle, but effective, use of different colour tones that alter the mood of the story is masterfully done, while the story is absorbing — a combination that leaves little doubt Churchland is a Canadian comic star on the rise.

(This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

You must be logged in to post a comment.