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Fatale #1 Review

By Dan Horn
January 4, 2012 - 13:05

I've grown accustomed to equating comic book writer Ed Brubaker with really brilliant ideas that are either executed nominally or entirely poorly. That isn't to say that I don't love his creator owned series like Incognito or Criminal, both with art by co-creator and long-time collaborator Sean Phillips, but his work beyond those spheres, and even within those titles at times, can be summed up as hit-or-miss. So, with equal parts trepidation and excitement, I went into the first issue of the new Image series from Brubaker and Phillips, Fatale.

Fatale #1 opens with a funeral, setting a decidedly gloomy and uneasy precedent for the book, which seems to grow exponentially grimmer and more unsettling with each successive turn of the page. The issue relays the story-within-the-story of a deceased crime novelist's unpublished, and possibly true, manuscript, which chronicles a reporter's headstrong crusade against police corruption, a terminally ill, occultist cop's search for what is ostensibly the devil, and the enigmatic femme fatale caught in the middle of these two men in 1956.

Fatale finds an immaculate balance of Raymond Chandler noir with H.P. Lovecraft horror, Sean Phillips' gorgeous and disturbing art putting the obsidian tone of the book right on target. Brubaker's writing itself surprised me, as it really committed to genre ambiance. The characters are all immediately interesting and accessible and Brubaker develops them expertly, through gumshoe detective prose and hard-boiled dialogue. The dark mystery and foreboding mood of Fatale create ultimately an unnerving and original experience, perhaps one of the most compelling debuts of Brubaker and Phillips' prolonged collaborative career.

One final thought about this fantastically gritty and terrifying issue: Thankfully included in Fatale #1 is a peripheral delight, the return of the editorial essay, which is reminiscent of some of Brubaker and Phillips' other works. The analytical piece, written by Jess Nevins, is a comprehensive view of H.P. Lovecraft's impact on genre literature, particularly horror, and the connotations of cosmic horror. The editorial is a much appreciated cherry on top and propels the debut installment as a whole toward perfection.

Rating: 10 /10

Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25

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