With “Fatale” #8, we’re a good way into Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ new comics project, which was originally scheduled to run for a year but now has a longer expiration date in mind. With other creators I might have been a little concerned that a successful series was being padded. In the case of “Fatale,” though, it feels like we’re instead getting a story that is more complex.
With a mix of crime noir, mystery and outright horror, “Fatale” defies easy categorization. That’s just as true with “Fatale” #8, which continues the story of Miles and Suzy as they scramble to escape from a cult, even as Nick and Josephine’s threads continue to interweave into the greater whole. This issue’s interlude with Nick remembering more of his past was easily my favorite part, and I suspect it will be for other readers, too. Nick and Josephine are at the heart of “Fatale” and with each new piece of the puzzle, we’re both enlightened and confused. Those opening nine pages do more than just give us some more back story, though; Brubaker uses them to advance the plot with a big surprise waiting for us about what has been up until now a mainstay of “Fatale” in general.
With the rest of the issue, I can’t help but feel that it’s material that might have been cut back had “Fatale” still been scheduled to conclude in twelve issues. With the extra breathing room, though, Brubaker builds up these storylines and makes them feel a little more rich even as they also get more detailed. By this point in the series, going back and re-reading “Fatale” #1-7 first can only be a good thing; Brubaker’s story is moving at a brisk pace and you don’t want to have forgotten a crucial detail. Ironically, that’s also my one complaint; I feel like with each new issue, it’s a little harder to recommend for a new reader to jump on board without having read what’s happened before. It’s great for existing readers, but we’re definitely in the overall storyline rather deep now.
Phillips’ art (with colors by Dave Stewart) is strong as ever. The portrait of Jo smoking a cigarette at the start of Chapter Three, for instance, feels perfect. It’s classic beauty paired with a steely-eyed gaze. When Jo looks vulnerable just two pages later, it raises the question on which is the real Jo; the tough-as-nails look or the desperate-for-help face? It’s that ambiguity that helps shape “Fatale” overall, and it’s great. By the time we get to Hansel and the cult in the woods, your guard might also be down, so Phillips ups the ante here a bit. It’s a scene minimal in gore (just a little bright red blood thanks to Stewart) but it feels undeniably creepy and quickly re-establishes the cult as something to fear. Once again, Phillips’ art is what helps make these emotional punches work.
“Fatale” #8 is another good issue, although at this point if you’re thinking about giving the series a whirl, the first collection of “Fatale” is already in stores everywhere and is perhaps a better jumping on point. And trust me, if you aren’t reading “Fatale” already this is a series you should definitely sample. As always, good stuff.