The Quarter Bin

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Fatale #1

Posted by Luke Brown On January - 3 - 2012

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips take a turn down a dark and beautiful road with their latest series, Fatale. Though Bru and Phillips is treading new water with a new publisher, the Criminal/Incognito duo show that there are few creative teams that tell a story as well as they do.

Fatale #1
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

If you’ve been following this site for even just a short while, you’d know just how much I adore Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. For my money, there is no stronger creative team that has put out such solid work so consistently in the past decade. Sure, they’ve been working together longer than the last ten years, but they weren’t putting out quite the volume of collaborative work in 1999 as they are today. Recently, Brubaker and Phillips have begun alternating runs of their ongoing series of mini-series Criminal with other creator-owned projects. Fatale is the latest tale to be added into that rotation. Combining the duo’s trademark hard-boiled sensibilities with a horror-filled twist, Fatale manages to feel familiar and fresh at the same time.

There’s a lot going on in this first issue. A multitude of characters are introduced, the story (at least in this issue) takes place in two different eras, and so many plot threads are introduced it can be a bit daunting to take it all in the first time you flip through the issue. While it’s not a bad thing that there’s a lot going on right off the bat, Fatale #1 definitely feels a bit more chaotic than the tightly wound narratives Brubaker typically pens. Part of that may come from the fact that Fatale was born out of ideas Brubaker admits in the afterword he couldn’t quite wrap his head around. The story begins in 2011, but quickly readers will find themselves in 1956, where a mysterious young woman named Josephine is meeting with a reporter. He wants to blow the lid off a police scandal, but she alludes to there being so much more at stake. What follows only serves to prove her point, but without spoiling the mystery, that’s really all I can say.

However, I don’t necessarily see how jam-packed the first issue is as a fault. I’m sure Brubaker has a very concrete outline and idea of where this story is going, who is going to do what, and how they’re going to do it. Keeping the readers on their toes is just another part of the equation. The quick pacing and hecticness of the issue only add to the mystery of each character’s motivations. Particularly so in the case of the femme fatale that has every male character’s stomach in a twist, Josephine. Who is she? How does she make men feel so weak in the knees? What happened during the war to put her in her current predicament? I’m sure we’ll find out, but not until Brubaker wants us to.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Nobody draws women smoking better than Sean Phillips. Maybe Eduardo Risso comes in a close second, but Phillips undoubtedly knows how to make a woman look beautiful even when she’s doing something ugly. Now obviously Sean Phillips can draw a heck of a lot of things besides smoking really well. It’s just that with the type of stories he and Brubaker tell, there are a lot of pretty ladies lighting up seemingly every issue. Josephine is no exception to that rule. Outside of that, you can count on the same expert storytelling from Phillips this issue. His penmanship when it comes to these types of stories is unparalleled. And that extends beyond the page. There are very few cinematographers and directors working today that have the acute knowledge of knowing where to put the camera (or how to light/block a scene) to create the atmosphere Phillips does. They at least have the added benefit of having actors on hand, and not having to create them from scratch every single panel.

Now I hate to say it, and this is me admittedly being nitpicky, but I was actually a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of Phillips’ creature art in the issue. There are glimpses of otherworldly and unnatural beings, but outside of a few static shots, Phillips is still just drawing everyday people. They’re fantastically dark and moody people, but I was hoping to see more horrific images in this story. With plenty more story to come, I’m sure there won’t be a lack of monstrous characters in Fatale. This issue though was a bit light on the Lovecraft.

When it’s all said and done, Fatale #1 is a very strong first issue. Anytime Brubaker and Phillips get together, you know you’re going to be in a for a good time. Fatale #1 does a great job of setting up a whole slew of new mysteries and characters, and I’m eagerly anticipating the next issue. Even though newcomers to the Brubaker/Phillips style may find themselves cast into the deep end rather quickly, I have a feeling they’ll be just as hooked. The duo are leading us down a dark path, and I can’t wait to see how weird it gets.

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