By Geoff Hoppe
June 13, 2013 - 19:19
Publisher(s): Image Comics
Writer(s): Ed Brubaker
Penciller(s): Sean Phillips
Colourist(s): Elizabeth Breitweiser
My experience with Ed Brubaker is scant: I read his run on Captain America, which ranges from excellent to publicity stunt, skimmed Gotham Central in the store because I’m cheap, and lambasted his short story in Liberty Comics #1. Those stories revealed an able storyteller given to flights of overdone moralizing, a writer who teetered between making bleakness believable and wallowing in an overwrought message. In Fatale #14, Brubaker seems to have found his balance in the occult*.
The Obligatory Warning: gore, gun violence, brief but explicit sexual content.
Brubaker’s entire run on Captain America led, of course, to Cap’s 2007 “death.” The leadup was fun and tightly paced (and terrifically illustrated by Steve Epting), but the underlying messages (politicians inevitably compromise their values, the Man is out to get you) were as stale as Frank Miller’s Sin City politics. In Fatale, however, the sense of doom that vented itself in Bush-era paranoia in the mid-2000s has found legitimate material in a Lovecraftian tale of ancient evil. The overblown style suits the ruined, war-torn settings.
Brubaker out-Mignolas Mike Mignola in #14. Nazi-paranormal-occult melanges weren’t new when Mignola started Hellboy, but he’s undoubtedly put his stamp on the sub-genre for the past twenty years. Fatale has all the usual trappings—a Lovecraftian villain, an F. Paul Wilson-esque Romanian connection, and WWII adventure—but what distinguishes Brubaker is his focus on story. Mignola, and stories set in the Mignola-verse, are often more interested in universe building than storytelling. As with his master Lovecraft, Mignola’s narrative suffers for the sake of exposition. When Mignola’s on art duties, this isn’t a problem: see the current Hellboy in Hell #1-4 for an example, or 2007’s Hellboy: The Island. But story’s often downplayed.
Fatale #14 doesn’t have that problem. There’s a sinister and well-realized universe here, but Brubaker’s explanations don’t slow down the narrative. The narrative voice knows when to talk, and when to let the characters tell the story. The balance is deftly handled. Kudos also to Fatale #14 also for advancing a storyline while remaining accessible to new readers like myself. I don’t know if this is a good jumping-on point as far as the wider story goes, but I do know I’m hooked.
Worth the money? Absolutely. Even if you’re glutted on Wehrmacht-occult shenanigans, the characters and writing will entertain you.
*For all I know, he’s written more occult stuff. I need to read more. In the case of Fatale, this issue has insured that will happen.
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