Jun 10, 2014

Comic Book Review: Fatale Book 1: Death Chases Me

Prepare to have on foot set in the present and one foot set in the past. In Image Comics' noir-horror Fatale by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and David Stewart (colorist), we follow the danger that comes to all those who come in contact with the sexy and self-serving Josephine (or Jo, as her many male companions call her). In the present, Nicky meets Jo at a funeral for a man whose estate he's come in control of. The beautiful temptress immediately gets Nicky into some hot water and bodies start dropping. Cut back to the 50's, and Jo, looking as beautiful and ageless as ever is entangled with a Homicide detective and the reporter who tried to expose his corruption. Whatever makes Jo ageless and irresistible is a mystery, but it has something to do with a demonic cult in the 50's who want to capture her for their own means.

Fatale Book 1: Death Chases Me collects issues 1-5 of this on-going 2013 Eisner Award nominated series. This series along with such other titles as East of West, The Walking Dead, Spawn, and Invincible are quickly building the name of Image as a powerhouse of the comic book medium.

In a world overrun by capes and cowls, co-creators Brubaker and Phillips turned away from super heroics to tell a down and dirty noir. The story telling is engaging and you know that any slow points are fleeting, as this series is packed full of action and grotesqueness. It genuinely feels through the narration, dialogue, and artwork that this is truly set in the time period it claims. I have no doubt that Brubaker and Phillips are big fans of the noir genre and likely played many homages to classics.

What dampens the entertainment of this book are few and far between, but noticeable when highlighted. Many noir stories feature the main character going down deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole they can't escape from leaving them completely baffled about what to do and where they are. As a reader you certainly get that feel, but it may be an objective left in classic stories for a reason. Emotionally things felt too muddled and complex at times to the extent that some payoffs almost fall flat. Speaking of flat, many of the characters while attention grabbing and making you want to follow their story, don't resonate with readers as being well rounded. Everyone is kind of selfish, hard boiled, and deeply flawed to the extent it's hard to find any good in any of them. But you're also not disgusted by most of them enough to want to be rooting for their comeuppance. I understand not making morality so black and white but in professional wrestling terms, nobody wants to see two tweeners fighting, because nobody has a vested interest in who wins. Which horse do you bet on? Oh, he lost? Okay, so now what?

Final Say: By the end of Fatale Book 1: Death Chases Me, I felt like I had been taken on a wild ride and am curious where the series goes from here. The finale was dramatic enough to give a sense of resolution to those who do not want to go further, while still engaging enough to get fans salivating over Fatale Book 2: The Devil's Business. The art was perfectly gritty and fitting for the genre, and the characters are memorable, if not sympathetic. My overall rating...

4 / 5

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