"Fatale" #2 is prettier and cooler than any single comic has a right to be. It's also smart and engrossing and oh so good. If only more comics could be as good as "Fatale". . .
In this issue, we learn more about the mysterious Josephine as the issue continues to take place in the past. We learn Josephine's connection to Nicolas' godfather, Dominic Raines, and the supernatural hints begin to come, including what allows Josephine to never age. The story of Josephine, Raines, Walter and the mysterious "Mr. Bishop" unfolds, like any great noir crime story, with delightfully dark complications. This issue ends on a great cliffhanger (that I will not spoil) which is just unexpected enough to keep you wanting more. Lots more.
Ed Brubaker has a flawless handle on the voices of these characters, which is no real surprise given his deft experience with this type of story, but it's nice to see a writer so effortlessly steering the ship. Especially with noir, where the characters are numerous and the plot twists and double crosses stack up quickly, feeling that voice, tone and time period so clearly on the page is key. Brubaker's story is chock full of all the things that make for great noir -- crooked cops, beautiful dames, idealistic journalists and lots of bad guys -- but the supernatural twist adds a little something extra. Additionally, while it's hard to turn down a compelling femme fatale, it's really nice to see Brubaker giving Josephine far more than just the femme fatale role. This story, at least at this point in time, feels as much hers as any of the other major characters, and that's a nice change of pace for most noir.
Sean Phillips artwork is pitch perfect. Tonally he nails the time period and the feeling, which again, is no surprise given his exceptional track record working with Brubaker in this genre, but it's still a hell of a lot of fun to experience. The two work together like a finely oiled machine, never hitting a wrong note. The storytelling is impeccably paced and told with a simplicity and matter of fact attitude that fits the tale. Dave Stewart's colors are brutally evocative and appropriately dark. Occasionally I had trouble telling the male characters apart since there were so many dressed similarly (as the time period demands) and because the book trends so dark. However, I'm not sure I'd change that if given the option, and Brubaker's script generally does a good job of compensating quickly in any places where it was potentially unclear.
This is absolutely the best of creative teams, clearly doing something they love. And there's nothing better than that -- creators at the top of their game, pouring that much energy and passion into a story -- the exceptional results simply cannot be denied.