Fatale 24 (July 2014)

Fatale #24

Given all the series’s problems as of late, I didn’t expect Brubaker to finish Fatale well. I knew it’d be problematic, but I hoped he’d go for satisfying at least.

Instead, he pretends he’s been writing a lot of third person exposition in purple prose so he can finish the comic with a rumination on the beauty of a sunset or some such nonsense. But it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Fatale’s been on a downward trajectory for a while and a rushed one–not ending would have been satisfactory. The writing’s just been too reductive.

But worse, Phillips’s art is rushed. He’s got lots of little panels and not enough detail on the people in those panels. He does a lengthy action sequence and it’s boring–it’s not entirely his fault, Brubaker’s rushing through the scene as far as tension.

It’s an unfortunate ending. It ignores everything good about the comic.

C- 

CREDITS

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

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Fatale 23 (June 2014)

Fatale #23

What a frustrating penultimate issue. It’s intentional on Brubaker’s part, but it doesn’t really matter because even though there’s almost no content to the issue–he reveals one big, deep dark defining secret of Jo’s, but it’s handled so matter-of-factly it doesn’t have much weight–even though there’s nothing to it, there’s Phillips’s art.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Phillips get to go so big on a collaboration with Brubaker, much less on Fatale, where he’s usually just been the perfect artist for the story but never the driving force of the comic.

Phillips drives this issue with its cosmic lovemaking and its double page spreads. There’s nothing to the comic besides this wonderful art, the underdone reveal and then the cliffhanger. But those big pages of Phillips, where he gets to equalize the stars and people, those are wonderful and nothing else matters. Not even Brubaker slacking off big time.

B 

CREDITS

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

Fatale 22 (May 2014)

Fatale #22

Until the last sequence, which tries too hard, this issue of Fatale is one of Brubaker’s strongest in a while. It starts with the big bad guy, the Bishop–who I can’t remember if Brubaker has named before–investigating what Jo’s been doing. Then it goes into a long flashback of the Bishop’s life since 1906.

It ties into a lot of big historical events, with the San Francisco earthquake being the result of the ceremony giving the Bishop his power. Brubaker and Phillips tie it all together, with pitch perfect narration and some great summary art from Phillips. World War I, World War II, it’s like getting a war comic and an Indiana Jones comic from Phillips all in one.

But the finish, where Brubaker ties it into the modern events, is problematic. It’s more setup for the finale and, worse, it’s contrived setup.

Still, it’s mostly masterful stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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 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 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 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 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.

Fatale 11 (January 2013)

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Brubaker and Phillips excel at these done-in-ones. More Brubaker, I suppose. Though Phillips does excel too, it’s just Brubaker is particularly good when he’s conceiving and executing a one issue story. He always has been good at it.

This issue, set in late thirties rural Texas (Phillips does a wonderful job with the setting), has three things going on. First is a cop who Jo seduces to help her and he’s ruined his life. Then there’s Jo, who’s just found some writer she’s been looking for. Finally there’s the writer, who has clues into the big Fatale mystery but also some secrets of his own.

The great thing is how Brubaker gets actual surprises out of things in so short a time. Not so much with the cop, but the writer and Jo’s scenes are simply amazing. They’re economical and devastatingly well-done.

It’s masterful writing from Brubaker.

CREDITS

The Case of Alfred Ravenscroft; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 10 (November 2012)

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Brubaker and Phillips come up with a great conclusion. Not so much for the present day part–Brubaker’s cheap with the present day stuff–but the flashback story closes beautifully.

While there’s a lot of good action, the issue excels because of the characters. Brubaker provides deeper insight into his protagonists during the issue’s busyness. They’re little insights, very quiet, but Brubaker gives them significance without too much emphasis. If that description makes any sense at all. It’s neat.

There’s not much explaining. Not in the present or the past, which gives Fatale an otherworldly tone even though there’s nothing fantastic in this issue. Even with the seventies cult resolution, there’s nothing uncanny either. It’s a very grounded finish to the arc.

Except for the present day stuff. Brubaker rushes it because it’s a cute resolution for the modern protagonist–whose name I have, in fact, forgotten.

Still, great comic.

CREDITS

The Devil’s Business, Chapter Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 9 (October 2012)

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Hansel, the cult leader, again gets his own scene juxtaposed against the regular action. Once again, it doesn’t work. Everything else this issue works–except one flashback panel requiring the reader to remember minutiae from the arc’s first issue and a revelation scene–but the cult leader is a constant problem.

Brubaker can’t make him interesting. He’s scary, he’s disturbing, but he’s not interesting. He’s just a bad guy. There’s nothing else to him. If he were addicted to Big League Chew, Fatale would work much better.

Anyway, the issue’s successes. Miles and Jo have a nice chemistry to them as they navigate the issue. It’s occasionally domestic, sometimes nearly cute. Brubaker makes Jo extremely sympathetic. The guy a little too, but nowhere near as much. It’s a damsel in distress story, even if there are a lot of damsels and the distress isn’t clear.

It’s a good, fast read.

CREDITS

The Devil’s Business, Chapter Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 8 (October 2012)

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There’s not a lot of seventies L.A. scenery this issue; there are a couple good moments though, a couple great panels from Phillips. Instead, most of the issue is spent indoors, whether present or past.

Brubaker gives the modern protagonist–Lash, I think (Brubaker makes his name less important every issue)–a little story. There’s some mystery, of course. A flashback in the present tense set after the regular flashback. And then there’s a cliffhanger in the present.

There’s a cliffhanger in the past too, but Brubaker’s so successful in splitting the two, it’s hard to see the cliffhanger as consequential. All these events occurred forty years before the present action. There’s nothing anyone can do to change them.

It’s an excellent issue. Brubaker’s got a few plots running and he’s writing great characters for all of them. Well, except the evil cult leader’s tone-deaf interlude. It’s weak.

CREDITS

The Devil’s Business, Interlude and Chapter Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 7 (August 2012)

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There are so many new supporting characters this issue, I really hope Brubaker isn’t expecting me to remember them all. He opens the issue revealing a little of Jo’s new ground situation. She’s in the house, there are more secrets (physical indications abound), but probably none relevant to this storyline. It’s mood. Phillips’s great at mood.

Then the arc’s protagonist–Miles–heads out to see what kind of trouble he’s gotten himself into. Page after page of Phillips seventies L.A. The art more than makes up for what seems like Brubaker treading water. He’s trying to get the day out of the way so Miles and Jo can go to a cult ceremony.

At this cult ceremony, Brubaker reveals (to the characters, not the reader) some of the connections to the previous Fatale story arc.

Brubaker has a fair amount of artificiality to his plotting, but it’s a good comic.

CREDITS

The Devil’s Business, Chapter Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 6 (June 2012)

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Brubaker introduces a lot of little mysteries this issue. Some happen in the present, most happen in the past; the big one is how the past and present are connected.

The present day mystery isn’t particularly intriguing, not when compared to the ones in the flashback. It’s set in seventies Hollywood, with a b-actor the apparent protagonist. Brubaker does spend a little time from Jo’s point of view, but she’s such a sympathetic character here it’s hard to recognize her.

The protagonist stumbles into a few of the big mysteries and serendipitously ends up at Jo’s house in the hills. Brubaker makes it feel completely reasonable, never contrived.

Phillips excels at the time period. The art’s more interesting with just the mundane–the fantastic or horror elements are nothing compared to Phillips’s seventies street scenes.

It’s a good comic and gets one interested, even if there’s nothing particularly sensational.

CREDITS

The Devil’s Business, Prologue and Chapter One; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist and letterer, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 5 (May 2012)

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Brubaker recovers very nicely. And he lets Phillips go outside. Phillips’s outdoors art is always lovely.

There’s a surprise in the issue–or two, but the second one is somewhat immaterial–and Brubaker did a great job setting it up. It makes perfect sense and is only possible because he kept switching the perspective around through the last few issues. Can’t get too close when one of your characters is completely different than you’ve set him or her up.

The issue ends the first arc and has frame set in the modern day. It’s a mistake. Brubaker reminds the reader he never set up the modern ground situation in the flashback. Actually, he did everything he could to make it seem totally impossible for the characters to move into these new positions on the board.

Still, Fatale succeeds big time.

Brubaker just needs to justify the framing character a bit.

CREDITS

Death Chases Me, Chapter Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 4 (April 2012)

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Yeah, the impulse is gone now. Brubaker’s initial excitement and the creative force of Fatale has petered out. It’s still a good comic book, it’s just not exciting. There’s not a single surprise this issue.

Brubaker changes gears a lot. The bad cop is now not only one of the protagonists, he’s also not quite as bad a cop as he could be. Sure, he makes deals with demons… but he still does his job.

And Hank–whose manuscript is based, potentially, on these events–ceases to be a protagonist for most of the issue. Brubaker instead treats him as a subject, which does make a lot of sense. Getting into his head after a literal monster kills his pregnant wife… it might be too much of a downer even for Fatale.

Conversely, Phillips excels with issue’s relative quiet. Both creators have gotten comfortable, but Phillips doesn’t become less exciting.

CREDITS

Death Chases Me, Chapter Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 3 (March 2012)

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Fatale all of a sudden becomes very small and predictable. Brubaker moves the action, for a bit, to Fresno (in the fifties), which gives Phillips a lot to draw. Except when it comes time for the big reveal scene–when Hank gets his first clue about being in over his head–it’s an exceptionally small scene.

I get Brubaker not wanting to show the shark or whatnot, but come on. Fatale is in its third issue, there have been teases before. Another tease just leaves the finish of the book empty.

The modern day protagonist returns for a bit this issue at the beginning. It’s unclear why Brubaker’s including him, except to confirm the manuscript from the first issue isn’t the flashbacks. Not exactly. It’s embellished.

But otherwise? Including the modern day stuff doesn’t make any difference to the issue.

As for the predictability… hopefully Brubaker can recover his footing.

CREDITS

Death Chases Me, Interlude and Chapter Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 2 (February 2012)

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No framing this issue–and no immediate resolution to the previous cliffhanger. Instead, Brubaker does what he can to keep the reader on unsteady ground. The titular fatale, Josephine, opens the issue (I think) and Brubaker sticks close to her in terms of third person narration.

Everyone gets close third person, actually. Brubaker follows four characters around, the same number as last time, though the final one this issue is just for effect. He’s got to make the reader immediately sympathetic, since he’s got to do harm to the character.

Phillip’s artwork is outstanding. It’s a brighter issue, even though the supernatural elements become fully visible here.

Fatale isn’t exactly predictable, but it’s familiar. Brubaker and Phillips are cutting a new path through traditional terrain, regardless of how they accessorize.

That observation isn’t a slight. The comic’s an abject success, with Brubaker expertly pacing out the issue’s plot once again.

CREDITS

Death Chases Me, Chapter Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale 1 (January 2012)

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Fatale‘s first issue has some extra pages, but not so many it’s totally different from a regular comic. Brubaker does wonders with the pacing. He opens with a modern story, then flashes back into something. It’s unclear if it’s the manuscript the protagonist found or just a flashback.

But in that flashback, Brubaker moves between three characters. So it’s a less than thirty-page comic with four characters and all the time well spent. The pacing’s so great, Fatale being compelling is just a bonus.

The cliffhanger’s a little soft though. It doesn’t have enough impact since the reader has just meant that particular protagonist.

Sean Phillips’s artwork is fantastic, whether it’s the action scenes or the fifties stuff. The fifties art is a lot more static; it’s calm, even though it’s rather violent.

Brubaker and Phillips turn in such a strong, but singular, first issue, Fatale‘s hard to anticipate.

CREDITS

Death Chases Me, Prologue and Chapter One; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Dave Stewart; publisher, Image Comics.

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