Ed Brubaker

Fatale

Fatale 21 (March 2014)

Fatale #21

This issue, while obviously winding up to the big finish, is a bit of return to form. Brubaker takes the time to introduce a new character–one impervious to Jo's charms–and he's a nice addition. There's some levity amidst Jo's preparations.

Speaking of Jo's preparations, Brubaker does go too far with a reveal in the last page or two. He makes Jo do something incredibly dumb. After showing her to be plotting and careful, she goofs. It doesn't work.

But Jo's really back to being the mysterious femme fatale this issue. Nicolas is the protagonist, meeting Jo's sidekick, trying to figure out what's going on with her–he hasn't been the protagonist for a long, long time. And the series is only twenty-one issues in and the guy feels foreign to the captain's chair.

It's an outstanding issue; still, it also shows how reductive Brubaker's being with the series's many intermediary details.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

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velvet

Velvet 4 (March 2014)

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Strange thing about this issue… I think Brubaker’s started worrying about whether or not Velvet is likable. He makes her sympathetic right off with her recap of the aftermath of the previous issue’s soft cliffhanger. She recounts having sympathy herself for the abused Russian wife.

More than that detail, her narration is very explanatory. There’s exposition here and there, a lot of background hints, but Brubaker’s now letting the reader into her head. She’s in the middle of a huge, contrived conspiracy and she’s the good guy. Why shouldn’t the reader like her?

The big moments in this issue revolve around some kind of carnival in Monaco. Lots of good costumes from Epting, followed by a great action sequence. Even the way Velvet narrates her action sequence makes her more sympathetic.

It’s good enough, but with the overused first person narration, Brubaker’s not letting Velvet surprise the reader much anymore.

B 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 20 (February 2014)

f

Well, okay, yeah… Fatale is definitely in its last lap. Brubaker doesn’t hide it at all. He does, however, rush things. I thought it was going to be an awesome issue of Jo flashing back to her very interesting past.

Instead, she becomes John McClane and has to save Nicolas. And that wraps up real quick. Not so much action-packed as Cthulhu-packed. I’m also not sure if the Donnie Darko reference was supposed to seem original or not.

But it’s hard to get excited about the finish because halfway through this issue, it’s clear Fatale isn’t coming to a nature end. Why do a bunch of character work on utterly disposable characters? It feels like the series got canceled on Brubaker and Phillips so they have to rush an ending. Only no, they apparently just ran out of interest.

Or Brubaker always had a weak ending planned out.

B 

CREDITS

Curse the Demon; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 19 (January 2014)

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I’m not sure where I’m at with this issue. It finishes up the grunge band arc, but Brubaker uses it to kick off (presumably) the next arc set in the modern day.

He should really have some reminder of the modern day protagonist’s name. We’ve just gone through five or six new male characters; I’ll call him Streak from now on.

The plotting is a little too contrived, too convenient. Jo comes back at just the right time, the record company is owned by the Cthulhu worshippers. The issue’s a fine enough read, it’s just on reflection it’s such an easy out. Maybe it’s how Brubaker structured the story–Jo’s the protagonist, but the reader is supposed to care about the band and their problems. The two parts don’t move in conjunction.

There’s some gore and violence, but nothing visually distinctive. There’s nothing inventive or surprising, it’s all painfully predictable.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 3 (January 2014)

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I wanted this issue to be better. It’s decent, but Brubaker is moving things along quickly. He’s changing the narrative structure up, which is a little confusing, and Epting doesn’t really have any indicators to make it a seventies setting. I forgot it didn’t take place in the present until a line about Soviet Russia.

Brubaker’s confident and enthusiastic, which is great for him–who’d want to read a comic the writer isn’t jazzed writing–but it’s iffy for the reader. The series isn’t episodic, it needs some cohesion and a couple flashbacks don’t cut it here.

The story itself is simpler than it all appears. Velvet has a sidekick now–Burke, I think–but he doesn’t make much impression. Brubaker writes from Velvet’s perspective; none of the men are interesting, including her allies.

The lack of cohesion will probably lead to good, but not great, issues. Like this one.

B 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 2 (December 2013)

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I like this issue a lot more; I couldn’t figure out for a while, then I realized… it’s basically a lengthy Steve Epting action sequence. Velvet escapes, runs, escapes again. Brubaker juxtaposes her story against some guys at her agency talking about her. It’s great, fast but filling.

The only parts giving me pause are some of the stylistic choices for flashbacks and then the fictional super spy agency. Maybe for Epting to keep his schedule, the flashbacks, which took up at least two pages and showed single panels of Velvet’s illustrious career, are necessary. But they bring the issue to a screeching halt.

Second, the spy agency. It’s really made-up and leaves Brubaker open to do almost anything. He could hide aliens down the line in this thing. It gives the series a fake feel, while Epting does everything but convey that sense.

Still, it’s a good comic.

B+ 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 18 (November 2013)

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The issue reads too fast. It becomes a showcase for Phillips’s abilities at creating a static montage sequence, which are considerable, but Brubaker is still passing it poorly.

The first half of the issue is the band at the house, trying to figure out what to do with a dead body. Brubaker plays the scene for effect, time and again, and not actual narrative progression. He doesn’t stick with the biggest reveal of the scene. Instead, he lets it pass almost without comment to set up his next dramatic moment.

The second half is the music video shoot, where Jo’s dancing sends everyone into a psychotic trance of sex and violence. Phillips does great work with all those little scenes–Brubaker moves through the whole cast (including the forgotten cop)–but it’s again all for effect.

Brubaker spent too much time setting up this arc’s concept instead of its plot.

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 1 (October 2013)

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If I have to talk about Velvet in terms of good and bad, I don’t think I’ll enjoy the conversation very much. In this first issue, Ed Brubaker brings in one of his familiar tropes–the person with the secret, extraordinary past; one problem with writing a lot of comics, your standards become very, very obvious.

The title character, Velvet, seems to be a mild-mannered secretary at a super-secret spy agency who sleeps with all the agents before they go out on dangerous missions. The truth? Well, it’s not clear yet, but I’ll bet she was the greatest spy the agency ever had and now she’s fighting to save her colleagues, who all suspect her of a crime she hasn’t committed.

The period art–sixties and seventies–is quite good. Steve Epting obviously likes it a lot and his enthusiasm helps.

It’s a fine outing, just dangerously shallow.

CREDITS

Before the Living End; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 17 (September 2013)

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Very different approach this issue, at least to the flashback. Jo is the center and everything revolves around her. Brubaker uses it to move the story smoothly; even the scenes she’s not in are about her. Only the flashback stuff can’t compare to the interlude with Nick on the run.

Brubaker brings back the Lovecraft writer references towards the end of the interlude, with the mysterious book coming back into play. Fatale is only a year and a half or so in and Brubaker has definitely established a deep mythology to the series. But the stuff with Nick and the guy on the run is great. There’s some occasionally iffy narration from Nick, but it’s great.

The flashback, where Brubaker and Phillips go almost more for effect than story, can’t compare. It’s good, but Brubaker uses a lot of easy devices to get the results he wants.

Still, fine issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 16 (August 2013)

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Definitely some Lowlife undertones. Brubaker’s shockingly frank about how Jo’s presence destroys the failed band members.

But all that destruction comes later. Brubaker opens with how Jo unknowingly created a serial killer out of some kid she once treated nicely. He’s never really looked at the long term effects of her presence, but here he’s loosing her not just in a closed environment (it’s almost like The Thing) while also examining her varied admirers.

Meanwhile, Jo herself has amnesia and has all of a sudden become a muse for this failed grunge band. He’s turned Singles into a horror movie while marrying it to a serial killer picture. There’s none of the Cthulhu stuff this issue, which might be why he has so much room for the rest of it.

There’s a lot of great art from Phillips–seeing a happy Jo is a strange thing.

Fatale’s an excellent comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 15 (June 2013)

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Now there’s a comic book. Brubaker opens with his first protagonist, Nick (I think it’s Nick) meeting with his lawyer after being in jail. Brubaker works a little with the book, which used to be the A plot but is now probably the C plot at best, before some weirdo breaks Nick out.

After some amazing low action jail break scenes from Phillips, Brubaker takes the issue back to nineties Seattle. Presumably the flashback protagonist is the jail breaker in the prologue.

This guy’s a failed rock star, amateur bank robber. It’s maybe the closest–when the guy’s hanging out in a mansion with the rest of his failed band–Brubaker has gotten to calling back Lowlife in his mainstream career. Utterly wonderful character stuff. Great Phillips mundane art. Just awesome.

Then Jo shows up and it gets even better.

Who knew Brubaker could fit so much variety into Fatale?

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 14 (May 2013)

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This one starts a lot better than it finishes. Brubaker sets it during World War II, with Jo getting mixed up with Nazis but these Nazis are really the squid man and his sidekicks. Meanwhile an American soldier sees all these strange things happening and finds himself unintentionally rescuing Jo.

I think the opening is homage to The Keep; I presume the book, but maybe the movie, who knows… But the end feels like Guillermo del Toro’s take on Indiana Jones. It’s this lame, lengthy action sequence. Phillips can draw it, but he’s got no heart in it.

The comic’s easily at its best before Jo even shows up. There’s not a lot of character development on the other cast, so Jo should be the best thing in it. But Brubaker’s forcing her into a predictable comic. It’s almost amateurish.

It’s an okay comic, but not anywhere near Brubaker’s par.

CREDITS

Just a Glance Away; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 13 (March 2013)

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I’m not sure if Brubaker’s intentionally doing homage or you just can’t do a Western anymore but this issue nods nicely to both John Ford and Unforgiven.

Once again, it’s a new protagonist, a woman in the Old West with the same affliction as Jo. Bonnie, I think. Brubaker summarizes her early life then shows her big adventure, if something so traumatic can be an adventure, where she finds out a little about herself.

Along the way she meets up with a Native American outlaw and a professor of the occult–not at an accredited institution, of course.

Phillips drawing a Western is awesome, as is Brubaker writing one. They ought to try one without the Cthulhu stuff. Just a good Western.

The end has a little surprise. Brubaker instead concentrates on the character development. He’s going to have a hard time maintaining this writing quality in multi-issue arcs.

CREDITS

Down the Darkest Trail; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 12 (February 2013)

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This issue takes place in thirteenth century France, with a Joan of Arc-type character turning out to be connected somehow to what’s going on with Jo. Maybe not connected, but definitely similarly afflicted. There are only the slightest hints at what’s actually happening with her–demons in the sky–because Brubaker instead has it play as an idyllic Bride of Frankenstein hermit and the monster story.

Except all the violence. There’s a whole lot of violence; the issue opens with some guys burning the lead at the stake. Then the hermit shows up and it’s like the violence has gone, but Brubaker actually just has it building, simmering under the surface. It’s a great done-in-one. I said before Brubaker always does these issues well, but he’s getting better.

And the Phillips art is just beautiful, whether peaceful forest in winter or bloody action sequence.

Fatale’s getting great.

CREDITS

A Lovely Sort of Death; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.