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Advance Review: Fatale #1

Written by Royal Nonesuch on Thursday, December 29 2011 and posted in Reviews

The next higly-anticipated book by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips will hit shelves January 4!

Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:

art & cover SEAN PHILLIPS
32 PAGES / FC / M


Nothing the BEST-SELLING and AWARD-WINNING creators of SLEEPER, CRIMINAL and INCOGNITO have done so far will prepare you for the explosive debut of FATALE!

A reporter in 2012 stumbles on a secret that leads him down the darkest path imaginable... to a seductive woman who's been on the run since 1935, a mobster who may be an immortal demon monster, and the stories of all the doomed men who've been caught in their decades-long struggle.

FATALE blends noir and horror to tell a riveting epic unlike anything you've seen before.


Genre-mashing is something that occurs a lot in comics, but it certainly didn't start there.  The early part of the twentieth century saw the rise of "pulp" adventure; stories which were disposable, aimed primarily at boys and young men, and combined crime, horror, and action adventure elements to come up with something wholly exciting and influential. 

As a writer, Ed Brubaker has always taken on the very things he likes to read, and as such his stories always have a feel to them that is both effortlessly lived-in and meticulously arranged.  He isn't just influenced by genre writing, he's a student of it.  It makes sense that Sean Phillips has come to be one of his most frequent collaborators, and that their names are so often linked.  Their sensibilities complement each other as he can ground any over-the-top fantastical plot in a more realistic world via page design and intimate, personal visual storytelling. 

That being said, just about anything Brubaker and Phillips work on from here on out will inevitably be compared to Criminal.  That's mostly a testament to how masterfully indelible that series has become, but the fact is Fatale seems to be taking a different track.  Whereas Criminal has the narrower focus of noir, Fatale goes the way of the old school pulp adventure.  It is fast-paced and tosses in a lot of stuff involving monsters, Nazis, mysterious dames, conspiracies, corrupt cops, death cults, and newspapers actually being relevant.  Fatale #1 is big and broad, involving flashbacks and far-reaching mysteries.  The issue is split into two parts, a prologue and "Chapter One."  The former covers the story of Nicolas Lash, who attends the funeral of a family friend and before too long is dodging bullets, meeting a mysterious woman, and involved in a high-speed chase before waking up in the hospital.  He's a regular guy with a five o'clock shadow and a white streak in his hair who ruminates on the past, particularly of the dead man whose house he's inherited; he becomes a man who ends up in a world of trouble he never saw coming. 

From there Fatale #1 flashes back to 1956 for "Chapter One", and before too long we find a good sampling in this issue of those regular Brubakerian themes of loss, fathers and sons, and a past that's difficult to outrun.  Those may be broad themes, but Brubaker uses them in such distinctive ways that lead to the formation of an expansive and twisting narrative that is as complex as it is exciting.  He's a writer who knows how to go "big" with his stories, and Fatale appears to be headed towards a hugely epic conclusion. 

Sean Phillips and Dave Stewart come together to sythesize a type of retro-pastiche art style that recalls early century pulp artwork and never feels less than vital or modern.  A lot of that comes about not only through Phillips' page designs and gritty, impressionistic line drawings, but also through the level of detail and texture brought about by Stewart's work.  The mysterious woman at the center of the issue's events is rendered with almost pin-up girl precision and a horrible murder scene is appropriately visceral and grimy.  You can almost feel the blood and entrails squishing about underfoot. 

Fatale #1 is wonderfully dark, mysterious, and foreboding, and it features a hard-driving plot while reveling in its atmosphere.  The omniscient narrator adds a grim, darkly compelling mood, and never is there more of the plot revealed than needs to be at any moment.  Our imaginations fill in what isn't there.  That's where the intricacy of Brubaker and Phillips' storytelling comes into play.  For all the plot, story, and characters introduced in the issue, the real excitement comes from the anticipation of where it all could go, since there are so many possible directions.  It's utilizing latent expectation to its fullest, and it's masterfully executed.  Fatale #1 could be the next genre masterpiece in comics. 

Review by: Royal Nonesuch

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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch

As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.


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