Since “Fatale” is a crime story (of sorts) I have a confession (of sorts): I’ve never read any of the famous, critically acclaimed Ed Brubaker-Sean Phillips crime comics. Not a single one. My comic book budget tends to be reserved for superheroes, with dinosaurs on the side. Sure, there are exceptions, but I always talked myself out of getting hooked on another series or on more creators.
The cover image of the demon toting a tommy gun, however, was much too much for me to ignore, just absurd and surreal enough to make me want to know more. Then, I saw a preview of the book and I was hooked. I professed I’d give this a go and see what the hubbub was all about with these Brubaker-Phillips collaborations. It is worth noting at this point that the cover is printed on nearly the same stock as the comic itself, giving it a feel and heft different from anything else in the new comic stack this week.
In the text piece at the end of this issue, however, Brubaker reveals “Fatale” is “a new kind of book” for him, unlike his and Phillips’ other collaborations. That said, the team’s previous projects have certainly shaped how this book came to be, what it is and what the reader can expect.
The story, opening with a prologue set in the present day before spinning into a flashback in 1956 San Francisco, is a tale of the settling of affairs. Following the death of famous author Dominic H. Raines, his estate being wrapped up by his godson, Nicolas Lash. Lash encounters a stunning lady named Jo at his godfather’s funeral, and from there, things hit the fan. Gangsters pop up. There’s a car chase that involves a propeller airplane. We get explosions, gunfire and amputations, and Jo claims to know of Haines through her grandmother. Through the magic of the flashback, we see Jo’s “grandmother,” Josephine, meeting with Raines. And it’s at this point that the story gets mysterious, electric and terrifying.
Phillips does a great job drawing very photo-influenced figures, including Jo, who bears no small resemblance to Jane Russell. Jo has a classic beauty the type of which triggers second glances and longer stares from men and women alike. Likewise, Lash and Raines are portrayed as handsome, strong men who would definitely steal the scene if they were to appear on the big screen. A great deal of the scenery is shadowy and murky, adding to the mystery and uneasiness of this story. The parts of the story that are more brightly lit are packed with detail and dinginess. Dave Stewart’s colors sweep in, shifting the story from stark and cold to moody and cryptic. The look fits the book quite keenly.
There are clues as to what’s going on, but mind you, this is a first issue. Brubaker gives readers just enough to encourage them to jump to conclusions, make presumptions about the story and want to return for more, if for no other reason than to see if their theories match the unfolding plot. Undoubtedly, Brubaker has different plans, and his story is going to deliver things we don’t see coming. Just as long as we get the story of the demon with the tommy gun, I’ll be back for more. Until then, I’m going to give this issue another read then share it with a pal.