Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fatale #1

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Company: Image Comics

It seems that the dynamic duo of the comics world have readily identifiable names: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Whatever they touch, they turn it golden. Fatale is no different. The story is very much in Brubaker's wheelhouse. The Noir elements and the Crime genre in general that has become his pedigree is front and center, just as it has been in his other titles, things like Criminal, Sleeper, and going a bit further back, Scene of the Crime. However, what makes Brubaker so memorable isn't just his ability to fashion a crime story, it's that he's able to fashion a story that entices and peaks your curiosity from page one, and from there sends you on an adventure that keeps you guessing and isn't the type to be forgotten.

This first issue, which bleeds together the Noir with the works of H.P. Lovecraft, introduces us to our main characters Nicolas Lash and the enigmatic and seemingly immortal being going by the name of Josephine. Immediately, each character is interesting for different reasons. Lash seems like a simple man dealing with the death of his godfather, but you can tell that he has a few secrets bubbling beneath the surface. With Josephine however, all she is is secrets. She's deadly, capable, and seems to know what is going on as Lash finds an old manuscript in the home of his departed grandfather, but even when the shit hits the fan, is tight-lipped about it.

The actual construction of the story, told in present day and then in flashback form in the guise of a manuscript, is also interesting. It allows a lot of leeway and fun to be had as we explore the depths of San Francisco in the 1950's. It also allows the reader to get to know Lash's Grandfather and Josephine a bit better. Fusing it with Lovecraft, with its cultists and mysticism and end of the world insanity, is simply icing on a very evil and violent cake. It adds to the potboiler intensity that Brubaker's scenes have a tendency to carry. He makes the small things, the tiny conversations and whispers between two people, matter.

On the flip side of the equation, with Fatale, Sean Phillips turns in some of the best artwork that I've seen from him in some time. I've always enjoyed Phillips' work, but oftentimes I feel that his characters feel very similar to those that he's used before. It's a minor glitch from an artist who's construction and talent is so strong though. Here though, his characters feel very real and memorable and different. What is also drawn with perfection are the locales. From an old country estate to winding highways to crime scenes, everything lives and breathes with such a pronounced sense of realism. You can tell that Phillips takes pride in it, and that he's able to capture not only the beauty and mystery of a woman but also the adrenaline inducing energy of a car chase that in many way feels like a scene from a Hitchcock film, is a major check in the plus column.

Fast paced, well crafted, and beautifully drawn, Fatale doesn't disappoint. If you're a fan or Brubaker and Phillips or if you simply are a fan of either of the genres that this book delves into (Lovecraft fans should definitely take note of the write-up on the author in the back), this is a book that you should seek out.

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