Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Colors by Dave Stewart
Review by Joey Braccino
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Sleeper. Scene of the Crime (with Brubaker’s other regular partner-in-crime, Michael Lark). Criminal. Incognito. And now, Fatale. The first issue of Brubaker’s new series with Image went back to press four times. Four flippin’ times. And yet, sadly, I missed issue #1. And then issue #2. And then a few more. And then I resigned myself to waiting for the Fatale collected edition while I wept over Brubaker’s final few issues of Marvel’s Captain America and Winter Soldier (one more to go…).
And then Image released the promotional material for Fatale #11, and it promised a one-and-done flashback story that would be the perfect jumping on point for new readers.
And all was right in the world.
So I’m exactly the “new reader” that Image and Fatale #11 hopes to cater to. And consider me “perfectly jumped on.” Fatale #11 captures in a tight one-and-done all of the wonderful hard-boiled crime/pulp-noir/horror comics genre-bending of the previous 10 issues. Brubaker’s script is perfectly paced and resoundingly mysterious; Phillips’ artwork (and Dave Stewart’s colors!) is expressive and appropriate to the 1930s setting.
Fatale #11 features a 1930s horror/crime hybrid entitled “The Case of Alfred Ravenscroft.”The comic opens with some terse narration recounting a down-on-his-luck, love-sick police officer who has been abandoned at a bar by our mysterious, eponymous femme fatale, Josephine. The doleful narration coupled with Phillips’ heavy shadows build toward an unsettling quick cut that brilliantly leaves the officer’s fate unknown until the end of the issue. It’s exactly this sort of deft, suspenseful comics storytelling that exemplifies Brubaker and Phillips’ talents, and, by extension, perfectly acclimates new readers to the style and pace of Fatale.
The Alfred Ravenscroft from the issue title is a reclusive sci-fi/horror writer a la HP Lovecraft whose pulp stories hit discomfortingly close to home for Josephine. The confrontation that follows between Ravenscroft and Josephine jumps between eerie close-quarters character interaction and a bizarre supernatural flashback to Ravenscroft’s childhood roaming the West with his mother. At no point, however, does the weirdness feel jarring. Instead, the mystifying narrative pushes readers to flip the page rather than put the book down, which speaks volumes to Brubaker’s pacing prowess. And seeing the typically crime-inspired stylings of Sean Phillips shift toward monsters and ghouls is incredibly fascinating.
Buy it. Image keeps its promise by providing a perfect jumping on point for new readers. Brubaker and Phillips put together a perfect synthesis of Fatale’s larger stylistic and thematic mission in this one issue. The story is fascinating and mysterious, and, while it can serve as an enjoyable single-issue, issue #11 also leaves enough threads open regarding other characters to motivate readers to pick up future issues. And, in keeping with the genre-bending mission of the book, next issue promises another period-piece, one-and-done, this time jumping back to the Middle Ages. Seriously. This book be crazy.