Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Sean Phillips
The second issue of the hottest new series of 2012 is here! In modern times, Nicholas Lash searches for answers about the mysterious woman who ruined his life, while in the mid-1950s, reporter Dominic Raines is drawn down that same murderous path… The award-winning team of Brubaker and Phillips keeps the heat on high in this epic horror noir.
In his review for issue #1, Walter Richardson called Fatale a stew — the book was left “to simmer” and let things slowly move along. In extending that metaphor, we are still cooking in issue #2, with still very few distinct flavors showing through just yet. It’s too early to know how all the ingredients will work together, but we are getting a better idea of what the finished product will be like.
Hit the cut for more thoughts on the latest from Brubaker and Phillips.
Noir stories can be easy — their elements are so clearly defined that many proprietors of noir fiction can just mix and match from the word bank to create a story: men in fedoras, smoking cigarettes, working as reporters/private eyes, women called dames, buying an evening edition newspaper off the street, the list goes on.
But a good noir story could be set in 1999 in suburban Illinois and still work (see Rian Johnson’s Brick for an example of a modern day version). Fatale is a good noir story — and, even though it has many of the tropes we’ve come to expect from a story in that style, the elements are all handled so well that the pieces don’t seem recycled, but rather repurposed. The ubiquitous cop isn’t the good guy; the reporter isn’t interested in doing the right thing; the affair isn’t portrayed to be romantic — all the slight inversions come together to make something special out of the parts. This issue furthers two main stories towards a crossroads — the first being of Josephine and her new lover, Hank, a married reporter, and the second being of Josephine’s old boyfriend, dirty cop Walt, and his quest to cure his cancer. Hank has exposed Walt in the newspaper as being on the take, and Walt is willing to do anything — even turning Josephine over to Bishop — to get well. Thus far, this book is the story of a love triangle with serious implications for each person.
Absent from this issue is Nicholas, the modern day godson of Hank who we met in issue #1. It appears that this arc will take place solely in the past, with Nicholas and his missing leg to be returned to at some point in the future. This is a shame, as I think the book would manage to be more interesting if the two timeframes were intertwined a bit more. However, I trust Brubaker knows what he is doing, and I am sure that the modern times plot will be back.
Sean Phillips has received lots of praise for his crime work in the past, and I will continue to sing his praises. His character work is understated and yet full of detail — and for a book with lots of blood and sex, his work never appears gratuitous. Dave Stewart, longtime Hellboy colorist, and one of the best in the business, assists Phillips in setting the tone of the book. The colors had a muted tone for most of the pages, but certain elements (specifically all things red — lipstick, cigar embers, blood, the cult’s robes) pop and set them apart.
This book is off to an extraordinarily strong start, and continues the tradition of excellence that the work Brubaker and Phillips have done together in the past has reached. The issue ends ominously, and tips the scales of the series ever so slightly towards the horror side — but that is a good thing. The horror elements here continue to distinguish this work from others in the noir genre. Bishop and his cult members are downright creepy and add a strong evil presence to a book full of morally ambiguous characters. So far, there isn’t really a purely “good” character in the whole comic, which fits right into the noir playbook. But the pure evil of the cult recontextualizes the other characters as basically good (well, maybe not Walt) — it is still too early to see the long game here, but I am confident in the talents of this creative team that they will make this series as interesting as its second issue was.Continued below
Final Verdict: 8.2 – Buy