The first arc came to a shocking conclusion. Rather than continue with that story, the focus shifts to a new group of characters (who at first appear to be unrelated). Gang-banger Timo and transgender assassin Ezerae turn out to be old friends, but both have been transformed by contracting the disease called The Beauty. The story alternates between telling their back stories and the present–both are equally violent. Ezerae makes the mistake of getting involved with Lucca, a fellow underworld operative. She had been warned against getting involved with someone else in the life, and things indeed go south. Timo returns to help Ezerae, and the two avenge their mentor Mr. Parks together. The story is certainly not over at the end of the collection, leaving significant loose ends for resolution later in the series. Haun is best known as an artist, and was the artist for the entire first volume. This one is notable for being entirely in the hands of guest artists. Huddleston (and Green, to a lesser extent) provide a look and feel close to Haun’s, while Weldele’s issues are entirely devoted to Ezerae (with lots of flashbacks), so the arc manages to hang together visually.
Four more strange, bleak tales from the Ice Cream Man’s world. He’s actually nowhere to be seen in the first story “Ballad of a Falling Man,” which is narrated by a man who has just jumped off a hundred-story building, located “about thirty miles outside of town.” But everything about the building has his hallmarks: hallucinations, insanity, and in this case a bunch of murderous raptors. One potential victim makes it out alive courtesy of Caleb the cowboy, the Ice Cream Man’s nemesis who first appeared at the end of the previous volume. The title story is a remarkable wordless entry, as a boy walks away with a three-scoop ice cream cone and his life splits into three possible time lines, each shaded one of the colors of Neapolitan ice cream. It is typical of the series’ world view that only one of them ends well. In the next story a young girl mourning her dead friend almost becomes a victim of the Man–presented in full demonic guise–until Caleb again steps in to save her. The final story follows a pair of drug-addled ambulance drivers, who move through several bizarre scenes of violence. Finally they remember they have a man with a knife in his neck in the truck. It’s Caleb, and it looks like the Man made good on the threat made in the previous story. There are not many questions answered here, but it’s remarkable story telling, arguably even stronger than the first volume.
Yet another approach to the world of The Beauty: this collection again does not continue from the events of the previous volume. The first issue finds creator Jeremy Haun back on art duties to tell the story of an extremely attractive man who does not have The Beauty. The problem is that all of the women he meets assume that he does, and they want it–until he finally meets one who doesn’t care. The rest of the issues follow members of the police Beauty Task Force–one of them a Beauty herself–as they attempt to solve a series of Beauty murders. There are two different M.O.’s, and the two perpetrators somehow manage to encounter each other–this is probably the most unlikely occurrence in the series so far, but it does result in a neat solution to the whole situation. The one recurring element is TV talk show host Jocelyn Grace, whose show has become a platform for “The Beauty Community” since she contracted the disease. This opens the possibility of the various narrative threads coming together as the series continues. Artist Thomas Nachlik is yet another artist whose work is compatible with Haun’s. It’s remarkable how consistent the look of the art has been; Rauch’s colors have certainly contributed.
Lots of action in this installment, and a lot less punning and silliness. Jacques Zacques returns from the Hole World intent on revenge–which also means that Sizzajee is still alive. Wizord and Ruby Stitch establish a new partnership (although it’s always possible they’ll go back to trying to kill each other). And Margaret makes moves to learn about her true nature. She also has Wizord turn her back into a koala, and goes to Australia to visit an online admirer she has fallen in love with. He did not realize that she was not human, so it does not go well. When a long-time spell is broken, she remembers something…and goes back to the Hole World to join her allies the Tigers, Sizajee’s greatest enemies. That and Wizord’s apparent defeat set up big events for Book Five. The series looks like it may be moving towards a resolution of some sort.