Fatale #1 - 'Book One: Death Chases Me' - Brubaker and Phillips
Story - At this stage, I think everyone pretty much knows what to expect from a collaboration between Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. They expect a crime noir story of the highest calibre, with fantastic art, great characters and plenty of exciting plot twists. But they also expect that Noir to be shaken up a bit, and mixed with another genre. In Incognito they threw in Pulp superheroes, in Criminal: The Last Of The Innocent they threw in a meditation on nostalgia and how dangerous it can be. Brubaker and Phillips have moved somewhat beyond telling simple pot-boilers, they like their crime with a little something extra.
And in Fatale, that little something is horror. In this story, alongside the crooked cops, frustrated newspaper reporters and chines gangs that you'd expect from many Noir stories are the trappings of horror, there's a mysterious cult, tentacle headed monsters, Nazis meddling with the occult and most important of all, a seemingly immortal and beautiful woman. Josephine, the titular femme fatale.
Brubaker has said in interviews that this book is in many ways an exploration of what it would be like to live forever, and as such, Josephine (or Jo) is the centre of the book, which is refreshing. Most of the time the femme fatale is not the centre of a Noir, but off to the side, a temptation but never a real character. Even in less flashy ways than Lovecraftian monsters, Brubaker is tweaking the form. I felt like the most powerful scenes of this issue were the ones narrated by Josephine and her lover, Detective Booker, who has gotten older and older while she remains the same. Booker's ruminations on this were wonderfully written and almost heart-breaking.
If I was to have one problem with this book, it's that there wasn't nearly enough. I feel like we've only just scratched the surface of the story, that the use of two time-frames meant we didn't get enough of either one. I suppose that it's good that I want more, as it ensures I'll be there for #2, but it was rather unsatisfying to reach the end with the story only really just getting into gear.
Luckily this book is satisfying in other ways, a Brubaker and Phillips collaboration just feels right to me, and you know that every panel has substance and thought put behind it, and that it's the product of two fevered minds working in perfect concert. I know that any problems I have with #1 will be gone by the time the story is over. Overall, Fatale #1 is a strong start to an exciting new endeavour from one of the best creative teams in not just comics, but all storytelling mediums. Whilst I'm upset there will be no more Criminal for a while, I'm delighted to see Brubaker and Phillips try something new once again. Can we have a Western next? That would be my choice.
Art - Perfect for the story, nothing more need be said.
Best Line - 'But what good was it loving someone so perfect when you yourself were watching yourself crumble to dust every morning in the mirror?'