Beautiful, Cool, and Irreplaceable
By Will Dinski
Among the lessons that can still be learned from the works F. Scott Fitzgerald is the fact that melodrama and literature need not be mutually exclusive forces, a concept sometimes overlooked in this age of daytime soaps and Danielle Steel paperbacks. In the proper hands, hyperbolic characters and plot points can be an effective tools in spinning a story, without edging too far into the world of self-parody.
Will Dinski has seemingly learned a lot from his fellow Minnesotan, taking a page or two out of Fitzgerald’s character playbook in the crafting of Beautiful, Cool, and Irreplaceable’s cast. They’re rich, they’re troubled, and they possess a propensity for passionate embraces. On a surface level, the character interaction that comprises the majority of the book unfolds like standard soap opera fair. In fact, early on the book, it’s difficult to gauge just how seriously Dinski expects us to take their problems. Surely the average reader of a self-published indie comic must have some difficulty conjuring up the proper empathy for the shallow relationship problems befalling successful movie stars.
Ostensibly, the story about a group of plastic surgeons and their clientele. Dinski’s attentions, however, soon turn to the cracks and flaws and imperfections of being perfect. “I’ve been perfecting you since before you were an actress,” explains Dr. Fingers, the surgeon as the center of the book, critiquing the angle of his star patient’s nose. “My masterpiece. One more surgery and you’ll be perfect.” Moments later, after two silent panels, the two embrace in the privacy of the house’s library during a cocktail party, as their respective partners—one a closeted movie star and the other vainly waging war against the wrinkles on her forehead—wait in the other room. You can practically hear the cheesy transition music swelling to a climax.
Beneath this moment, however, there’s a highly troubling message about the pursuit of perfection in the age of that ultimate status symbol, plastic surgery—one character’s manic obsessions and another’s eagerness to go along for the ride, upon discovering that, even after countless procedures, she is still flawed, or at the very least, has yet to live up to the expectations of man who considers her body little more than a slab of marble to be chiseled as a monument to himself.
Even more troubling is the question that’s truly at the heart of Beautiful, Cool, and Irreplaceable, posed indirectly by Yumiko, the surgeon’s assistant, who, despite remaining silent for a majority of the book, turns out ultimately to be the story’s true star. Yumiko quickly establishes herself as a rising wunderkind in the plastic surgery world, albeit through fairly unorthodox methods. When she pioneers a “Face Augmentor,” which turns its wearer into a near doppelganger of a well-known celebrity, it immediately deflates the value of her mentor’s services. More importantly, however, it calls into question the value of beauty in a world where seemingly timeless concepts can be easily bought and sold. What, if any, currency can we put in the beautiful people we worship, if there are armies of clones marching down the street?
Dinski tells the story with a minimal amount of lines, in many cases doing away with the confines of rectangular panels altogether, lending the book a decidedly brisk quality, which perhaps adds to impressions early on in the reading that the work is, in fact, working on a surface level. It’s effective on one level, but it also demonstrates a few spatial issues on the artist’s part, after crafting so many beautiful diminutive minis.
His characters, however, largely possess flawed symmetry, with profiles that can take on nearly cubist proportions, a subtle reminder, perhaps, of the sometimes conflicting notions of beauty and art, a concept brought directly to the forefront when a partygoer admiring a large classically-styled painting utters, “isn’t it beautiful?” The statement, while addressed at the woman behind him, is clearly rhetorical. “It’s signed by Eshelbiyer. But it’s more likely one of his assistant painted it. A true Eshelbiyer hasn’t been painted in years.” It’s a loaded assessment, to be sure, and now, in retrospect, the foreshadowing of such a statement couldn’t be clearer.
Ultimately, both Dinski’s art and storytelling beg the reader to dig below the surface. Combined they reveal a number of important questions about beauty, celebrity, sexuality, art, and superficiality. Granted, Dinksi asks far more than he could ever possibly hope to answer, but in doing so he demonstrates that sometimes shallowness is only skin deep.