Monday, June 02, 2008

Astro City Character Special: Beautie

I was killing time in the comic store on graduation afternoon, and picked up this comic, several months after it initially went on sale.

Although I have never read any of the Astro City series, I really enjoyed this.

Beautie, a life-sized cyborg with super-strength, invulnerability, and the ability to fly, is a protector of humankind. (Thank goodness.) Although she is a fighting member of the Honor Guard, and is valued and highly-regarded by her team-mates, she unable to interact or connect with them in a way that’s satisfying to anyone involved.

Kurt Busiek creates a compelling story for the character in this single-issue comic book. It’s a well-executed quest narrative: like Frankenstein, Data, Pinocchio, and the doomed clones at the center of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go, Beautie is a near-human whose earnest search for her identity is actually a sign that she is already in possession of the humanity she craves.

Beautie poses a sequence of fundamental questions, asking: where did I come from? who made me? and why was I made?

In a final Memento-like touch, we learn that this is a quest that Beautie has actually initiated and completed more than once -- her creator’s programming actively frustrates her attempts to acquire and retain the answers that she is able to attain.

Although it’s not clear how many previous iterations of the search there have been, at the close of the story we’re offered hope that Beautie’s cycle might soon come to an end.

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