The final story arc of Fatale begins, as Ed Brubaker flips the script a bit, and for the first time we get inside the head of Jo, rather than just see her through the perspective of the various men she’s had under her spell. This decision to finally change focus to her really works, as we start to get a few more answers about her past, and see what is really motivating her and gives a sense of true finality.
The issue begins with Jo killing a bunch of those red-cloaked cultists over-layed with a perfectly-picked quote from Nietzsche. We see that Nicolas’ escape from prison has messed-up whatever her plans were, so now she’s had to change things up, and is also slipping back into her bad ways, allowing herself to use her powers on men again. One random hook-up causes her to start remembering her past, and we see her various attempts to commit suicide, none of which (obviously) took. There’s a dark humour to these panels showing her trying to kill herself, but really, it’s there to once again demonstrate her dire situation.
Jo is looking for Nicolas, and she uses some kind of demon powers to track him, but that only makes her easier to find, drawing another red-cloak. She kills him, but in another brilliantly fucked-up scene, he’s brought his young son along with him, who, even though he’s a kid, is still brought under Jo’s spell. It’s really disturbing to see him paw over her and call her ‘pretty lady’, and the fact that Jo has to push a little kid out of a car and leave him out in the middle of nowhere is equally dark. Jo’s powers have catastrophic effects wherever she goes, and this kid will probably end up like Wulf from the previous arc did.
After this the focus moves back over to Nicolas, who is chained up in the basement of Lance/Nelson, who hasn’t sacrificed him yet because the time isn’t right. Brubaker and Phillips depict the grimness of Nicolas’ imprisonment really well, and it’s bleak, violent stuff. Nicolas is able to get one hand free, and is about to escape when Nelson stops him and starts to beat the shit out of him, which is when Jo finally shows up. This stops Nelson in his tracks, as he’s done all this to get her back, but Jo, horrified at seeing what he’s done because of her, does another creepy demon trick, and kisses him, reducing him to a gibbering wreck on the floor. She and Nicolas escape, but Nelson’s fate reminds Nicolas of something… the state he found his father in when he had him committed to the asylum! Yep, it looks like Jo is the person who drove Nicolas’ father insane, so even though we are finding out more about her, there’s still plenty of mystery to go around. Maybe Jo will end up being the villain of this story rather than the heroine? Femme Fatales are meant to be bad after all, and even though Jo is much more sympathetic than most of the archetype, she’s still bad news.
This was another typically excellent collaboration between Brubaker and Phillips, they are such a good team, with the art perfectly complementing the story. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I love the way Phillips and colourist Elizabeth Breitweiser seem to draw and colour Jo differently from the rest of the book, she’s cleaner, brighter, it emphasises how otherworldly she is. There’s only a few issues left, and I can’t wait to see how this epic all ends, and to revisit it before moving on to ‘The Fade Out’.