Written by Ed Brubaker
Art and Cover by Sean Phillips
$3.50 / Color
Brubaker and Phillips cut their teeth on pulp yarns in Criminal and Incognito for Marvel’s Icon imprint, but they truly bare their fangs with Fatale, a tale blending eldritch horror with noir intrigue from Image Comics.
It’s 2011. Nicolas Lash finds himself the reluctant executor of Dominic Raines’ lavish estate. A wildly successful but decidedly untalented crime writer, Raines had few friends in the world. Unfortunately, Nicolas’ father was one of them. Since the old man’s been stashed away in a mental hospital for several years, it’s up to Junior to take care of the hack’s funeral. It’s here that Lash first meets a mysterious woman named Jo and takes note of a few arcane markings on Raines’ headstone.
Though the supernatural lurks just around the corner for other characters, Lash’s experiences in this debut issue remain closer to the North by Northwest end of the thriller spectrum, replete with mysterious documents and predatory aircraft. The book is offered with two covers, one featuring a Lovecraftian menace glimpsed briefly in a WWII era flashback, and another featuring the enigmatic Josephine, the titular femme Fatale. This Beauty and the Beast dichotomy represents the breadth of the series’ genre mashup, combining both the gruesome horror and sultry sex appeal of 50s pulp. “The Losing Side of Eternity”–a story-within-a-story penned by Raines in 1957–introduces a gruesome cult massacre and some tantalizing revelations about Josephine. But is this newly uncovered manuscript Raines’ first attempt at a novel or something far closer to reality?
It’s entertaining stuff if you’re already a dyed in the wool pulphead, though the intentionally hackneyed style and tropes might scare off new converts. Lash’s story is already dovetailing with that of Raines’ manuscript though, and stalwart readers may well be rewarded with a compelling adventure once present day events regain their footing (little joke).
So, are we looking at a story closer to the style Criminal or Incognito? While the inclusion of supernatural elements might temp readers to position Fatale as the third arc of Incognito, there’s something a little more complex going on. It’s not as taut and well-written as last year’s terrific “The Last of the Innocent” storyline in Criminal, this story seems to be bridging the action/adventure and involving noir tones of its predecessors. Call it the happy medium. Neither as lean or as bombastic as it could’ve been. While characters like Jo and the spectacled Tweedle-Dee and Dum goons are all-too familiar, the story-within-a-story angle might prove for more nuance as the threads entangle themselves. And, as has even become cliche itself, it still holds true. Some cliches are cliches for a reason. There’s just something undeniably appealing about a dangerous woman with legs as long as her storied past.
As ever, Phillips’ pages are stunning whether he’s traipsing the damp streets of Chinatown in the late 50s, hugging the coastline in a high-speed chase, or exploring the curves of a deadly dame. There’s a reason Criterion hires this guy to design box art for flicks like Blast of Silence, Sweet Smell of Success and Twelve Angry Men. He exudes cool and we’re left sweating bullets.
While not as inventive as past collaborations, Brubaker and Phillips dish out more of the good stuff and you’ll want to get familiar.
Story: 4 / Art: 4.5 / Overall: 4
(Out of 5 Stars)
Read Fatale #1 on Graphicly: