Every week I – a returning comic connoisseur – will take a look at a different comic series in search of the best series in circulation. Either by tackling the next big epic or unearthing something lesser known, I will break down the series by analyzing their first issues to determine what makes my pull list, and what will be nothing more than an afterthought. This week I take a look at Ed Brubaker’s acclaimed horror noir –Fatale.
While at his grandfather’s funeral Nicolas Lash meets a mysterious woman named Jo. The two hit it off after Jo informs Nicolas that their grandparents had been close. Following the funeral ceremonies Nicolas ventures to his grandfather’s mansion to rummage through some of his grandfather’s belongings. He finds an unpublished book that is unlike the others his grandfather had written. Before Nicolas can further investigate this finding, intruders break into the home. Nicolas finds himself trying to sneak out of the home before Jo bursts onto the scene making quick work of the intruders. She flees the scene with Nicolas but on their way back they are attacked by a plane that eventually leads to Jo and Nicolas crashing their car.
Nicolas wakes up in a hospital bed missing half of his right leg. During his recovery he opens the unpublished book from his grandfather’s place and a picture falls out. The picture is of Nicolas’ grandfather as a young man with Jo.
The story then journeys back in time to San Francisco circa 1956 where we see the first meeting of Nicolas’ grandfather Hank Raines and Jo, who looks exactly the same then as she does in present day. Hank is a reporter questioning Jo to obtain information on her spouse Walt Booker, who is a crooked cop.
The reader then enters a gruesome crime scene being investigated by Walt and his partner. The massacre appears to be the result of an occult ritual. Although this sight is foreign to Walt’s partner, Walt mentions he had encountered a similar scene in the dungeons of Romania while he was deployed in WWII. The comic concludes with Walt investigating a clue left at the crime scene, a business card for an opium den.
Fatale will draw you in with its intrigue and leave you salivating for more. Brubaker and Philips manage to blend crime noir with horror in a combination that leaves its writers with tons of potential for creativity and disaster. The duo needs to take precaution when handling these elements moving forward, because there is a fine line between suspending disbelief and going too far and becoming a Syfy original movie. Through issue one the supernatural elements are more or less teased rather than thrown in your face, in a way that reminds me of the hit TV show LOST.
I love that they are tying in the Nazi regime with the supernatural because there is a lot of untapped potential there. It is rumored that Hitler had embarked on expeditions to locate the Holy Grail, Big Foot, aliens and that he possessed the Spear of Destiny. Add this to the bizarre experiments of Joseph Mengele aka The Angel of Death, and we have some seriously juicy potential for Brubaker to sink his teeth into.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Fatale #1 it is not without its issues. Beyond thrusting a lot of characters and subplots at you in such a short span, the journey back to 1965 seemed rushed. We are taken back into the time of Nicolas’ grandfather rather abruptly, and the way it is presented could easily cause confusion. The tombstone at the start of the issue has Nicolas’ grandfather listed as Dominic H. Raines, however here he is introduced as Hank. The birth date on the tombstone and the jump back in time correspond with this being Dominic. The H in his middle name likely stands for Hank. I had deduced that it is Nicolas’ grandfather and not his father by flipping back a few pages, but I would have preferred they introduce him as Dominic, then develop that Hank is his report alias. It broke the flow of the comic when I had to flip back and piece it together. Another odd problem I encountered was that the plane tracking Jo and Nicolas tries to suicide bomb into their car rather than try to shoot them. Unless it was some sort of brainwashed pilot then it seemed extremely idiotic, but perhaps this is explained in future issues. That said, with all of these characters having such important subplots it will be very import to see how Brubaker and Philips manage to balance the time devoted to each of these characters and plots.
The art also adds a lot of appeal to the comic for me. All of the issues I have seen have excellent covers, which are sure to attract a variety of readers towards the series by themselves. With Brubaker at the helm we can be assumed the story will deliver and luckily the art brings the plot to life brilliantly. It reminds me of a throwback to early Steve Ditko Spider-Man with a touch of shadowy, noir flare. I love the contrast in styles as this issue jumps between 1965 and present day, so this modernized throw back style really just fits this comic perfect. I also love that when it gets gory Sean Philips doesn’t pull any punches!
The foundation built in issue one of Fatale is strong. It leaves us pondering countless questions such as; what is to come of Nicolas now that he is missing a leg and; why hasn’t Jo hasn’t aged since 1965; does she have some sort of youth potion, did she sign a deal with the devil, is she a vampire, does her grandmother look exactly like her and have the same name? Right now I want answers and the only way to get them is to continue reading. I’d imagine that was exactly what Brubaker had in mind. This series is relatively new, so this is a great time to jump on board and get caught up quick.
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