Alcoholic cops, headless victims, killers in black bowler hats. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips jam FATALE #1 with an array of pulp characters to produce an unforgettable opening issue that is part horror story, part police procedural.
The issue begins with a man named Nicholas, who finds an unpublished manuscript by a recently deceased pulp writer. Before he has a chance to flip through the pages, Nicolas is confronted by a mysterious group of black-garbed men. These men say little, but their cold, almost faceless looks communicate an unflinching willingness to commit violence. A dark-haired beauty named Jo appears out of nowhere, and saves Nicholas and the manuscript by gunning down the men in black.
But as they make their getaway in Jo’s sports car, a plane right out of NORTH BY NORTHWEST comes out of the sky and swoops in for an attack. The car is knocked off the road, and Nicolas and Jo are thrown like ragdolls from the exploding vehicle. Five days later Nicolas awakes in a hospitable bed, his right leg amputated. The manuscript lies by his bedside. He picks up the pages and begins to read. The rest of FATALE shifts from the story of Nicholas to the story inside the unpublished manuscript. More characters are introduced; a cult murder is investigated; and a woman named Josephine, whose looks and name are suspiciously similar to Jo’s, plays a central role in this novel.
FATALE, in other words, is a metafictional narrative -- a story within a story -- that flips between the first-person narration of Nicholas and the third-person narration of the unpublished novel. How exactly these two stories interconnect isn’t yet clear, but Brubaker includes enough overlapping details between the two to suggest that the events in the novel will have a direct impact on the rest of Nicolas’s story.
The strength of FATALE is the way it moves so quickly between these dueling plots, introducing characters and backstories in rapid-fire fashion and simultaneously producing a nightmarish atmosphere. This series promises to be the most complex work that Brubaker has written; it also promises to be the most bizarre. The violence -- from amputation to decapitation -- is gratuitously memorable. And all the characters are sick, mutilated, or psychopathic. FATALE is like a bad acid trip, accompanied by a drinking binge, and a three-day vomiting hangover. It’s ugly, over the top, and a hell of a lot of fun.
If there is one weakness in this issue, it’s the cliffhanger. At this point, we are not invested enough in the characters or the plot to really care if one guy pulls a gun on another. But admittedly, this is a minor weakness.
As for the art, Sean Phillips does a phenomenal job depicting this double world of surreal violence. And his double-page illustration that accompanies the article on H.P. Lovecraft is eye popping. It provides a perfect finish to a near-perfect opening issue.
Last edited by Eli Katz
on Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:24 am, edited 1 time in total.