20 July 2013


Hot off the presses from Image Comics is the latest collection of the Ed Brubaker-Sean Phillips collaboration Fatale: West of Hell, which contains issues 11-14. I'm a huge fan of the Criminal series, which is as good as it gets in the noir/crime fiction  realm. Not only does Mr. Brubaker write tautly-plotted, compelling tales, Mr. Phillips draws the most beautiful pictures, and the combination is hard to beat. They preceded Criminal with Incognito, which mixed in superhero stuff with noir, something that should not have worked but actually did. These guys are that good. Now they are pursuing this strange horror-noir mix they call Fatale, and like Incognito I was not sure it would fly. But fly it does, soars in fact, showing once again that these guys are the real deal. Fatale follows a femme fatale, of course, but this femme spreads around the fatal without ever really getting fatal-ed herself. She's some kind of immortal being, not a real human despite looking like a cross between Ava Gardner in The Killers and Jane Greer in Out of the Past. She lives forever it seems, or when she dies she is reborn in another time and place. It's hard to tell, really. Very horror story-weird with lots of unanswered questions. The first two collections (Death Chases Me and The Devil's Business) were set in various decades of the 20th century and our "heroine" was called "Josephine." In the latest, we find "Mathilda" in both the Middle Ages and the American West. There's even a WWII adventure. It's heady stuff, and hard to tell where it is going, but I'm willing to go for the ride. The idea that the femme fatale is more than just a literary trope or a cultural icon but is instead an actual force of nature is a surprisingly fertile ground for a good writer-artist team. It's the kind of thing that demands re-reading, not just for the unanswered questions, but for the richly detailed art, in which I see something new every time I look at it. Keep up the good work, men. I'm ready for my next collection!

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