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Fatale #1 arrived on Wednesday, created by the Criminal and Incognito team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, with colors by Dave Stewart. The supernatural crime story features a modern-day reporter who “stumbles on a secret that leads him down the darkest path imaginable” — into a world of dames and demons.
Brubaker and Phillips have proven to be one of the best teams working in comics today, so this one comes with some high expectations. Did it meet them? Here are a few opinions from around the internet:
David Brothers, ComicsAlliance: “Crime and horror are two genres that don’t generally associate with each other, although they do share a few similarities: sudden bursts of violence and an exploration of something that is wrong at the deepest level. Fatale is more crime comic than horror comic, but it’s the horror touches that make this issue such a treat to read. It succeeds because where crime comics zig, horror comics zag.”
Alan David Doane, Trouble with Comics: “The first-person narration of main character Nicholas Lash feels comfortable and intimate, but the strange things that begin to happen to him unfold so quickly that you’re as disoriented as he is by the way the world turns out from under him. As he immerses himself in a story-within-the-story in the form of a previously unknown manuscript brought to him by a beautiful and mysterious woman who may be much more than she suggests. The scenes depicted from the manuscript really give Phillips a chance to show what he can deliver, as we get a luminously noir scene-setting city street depiction so detailed and visually stunning that it’s also called-out for the issue’s back cover illustration. We see truly creepy thugs reminiscent of The Strangers in Dark City or The Gentlemen in the “Hush” episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but by way of Herge’s Thomson and Thompson. Visually witty but still filled with horror and dread.”
Walter Richardson, Multiversity Comics: “Brubaker is, without a doubt, one of my favorite writers, and one of the first that I ‘followed’ when I got back into comics. I have to admit, though, that I look forward to each Criminal, Incognito, and Fatale just as much for Sean Phillips’s outstanding art as for Brubaker’s ice cool writing — perhaps, with no disrespect meant, even more. If you follow Phillips’ art blog, you have probably seen his life paintings, highlighting his attention to anatomy that is echoed in his published products. There is, of course, more stylization in his comics, but it’s never at the expense of the core human figure. What makes his style perfect, though, for the gutters of crime fiction that he tends to work in is his flawless attention to lighting. A lot of comics artists that try to reflect the high contrast world of film noir in their work can be prone to just slapping a bunch of black ink everywhere, with no attention to light sources and direction (apologies if my terminology isn’t correct, I’m a layman myself). Phillips’s art, though — while certainly dark and often heavy on the ink — is always shaded naturally. The shadows aren’t there for effect, they’re there because they would naturally be there. The pages in Jo’s bedroom, in particular, have some excellent use of light and shadow, and those pages alone are sufficient proof that Phillips just takes his job more seriously than a good deal of artists in the industry. I don’t mean to bag on those artists, of course — Phillips just has a dedication that few can match.”
Alex Evans, Weekly Comic Book Review: “I think some readers may wish that there weren’t so many mysteries or unanswered questions or that Brubaker advanced the plot a little more or made it a little more clear where we’re going or what exactly that plot is. While I can understand this, it doesn’t refute how much you get here. Few comics can so effectively balance smart, psychological character-work, replete with the Criminal-styled heart-straining, desperate, pained romantic narration, with such a healthy slab of the batshit crazy. Action, horror, and mystery/crime come together here in a way that’s simply exciting and bubbling over with creative potential.”
Paul Montgomery, iFanboy: “So, are we looking at a story closer to the style Criminal or Incognito? While the inclusion of supernatural elements might temp readers to position Fatale as the third arc of Incognito, there’s something a little more complex going on. It’s not as taut and well-written as last year’s terrific “The Last of the Innocent” storyline in Criminal, this story seems to be bridging the action/adventure and involving noir tones of its predecessors. Call it the happy medium. Neither as lean or as bombastic as it could’ve been. While characters like Jo and the spectacled Tweedle-Dee and Dum goons are all-too familiar, the story-within-a-story angle might prove for more nuance as the threads entangle themselves. And, as has even become cliche itself, it still holds true. Some cliches are cliches for a reason. There’s just something undeniably appealing about a dangerous woman with legs as long as her storied past.”
Erik Norris, IGN: Fans of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips previous collaborations should find a lot to like in Fatale. The book presents a great mystery, interesting characters and treads unfamiliar territory for the creative team involved. It’s Brubaker and Phillips stepping out of their wheelhouse, but they manage to do so with grace and focus that makes me excited to see the great things that come from future issues of the series. If Fatale #1 is your first foray into the works of Brubaker and Phillips, forgive the slower pace of this first installment, because if we’ve learned anything from this team, they always wind up delivering in the long run.