by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (art), and Dave Stewart (colors)

The Story: Josephine finds herself pulled into Miles’ and Suzy’s world of Hollywood cults and sacrifices, which may be more familiar than she thought.

The Review: As much as I’ve been loving Fatale, two issues in, and I think this second arc is actually better than the first.  With only one time period to worry about, the series is more coherent and the plot elements easier to keep track of.

And speaking of time periods, Brubaker is knocking his creepy, occult 1970s Hollywood theme out of the park.  Hollywood has never felt seedier.  Brubaker’s use of hard to believe true stories of Hollywood cults and Sean Phillips’ art, which is portrays a world permanently stuck in a dusty, blazing hot sunset filled with desperate characters, Fatale is an immersive read that is truly evocative of the time period and location.  The best way I can describe it is that it feels as though the entire comic, its world and its characters, sweat.  The world is dark, shadowy, and seedy with horrors lurking just below the surface in a manner that is a mix of conspiracy thriller and Lovecraftian horror while characters seem to all have a vice over them, gradually crushing and closing in with every passing page.

Another aspect that, for me, has made this arc stronger is the Miles character.  Miles is very, very reminiscent of the very best characters of Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal.  Once again, we have a bad guy finding himself doing good things.  The result is a character that is locked in a really compelling grey area, pursuing goals that completely contradict and run contrary to each other.  He’ll help out Jo, while secretly trying to profit from selling out Suzy.  The result is a character that’s in a kind of moral existential crisis – he’s a scoundrel and proudly defines himself as such, and yet he finds himself doing good things again and again, playing the hero and putting his neck out in doing so, doing things that run counter to the scoundrel he is.  So while he shoots up with heroin while plotting his betrayal of Suzy, he finds himself slinking around with Jo in graveyards filled with murderous cultists.  Miles’ narration in these situations is fantastic, as he finds himself unable to explain these contradictions.

This also leads to another use of what’s been an ongoing point of interest in Fatale:  Josephine’s powers.  Is Miles doing these good, heroic deeds that are counter to his nature simply because of Jo’s supernatural powers over men?  And just how much is Jo actually exercising those powers?  And to what extent is it intentional on Jo’s part?  Does she want to use her powers to control Miles?  Is she simply using him.  Brubaker leaves it wonderfully ambiguous, which makes Jo a remarkably interesting character.  A particular high point is scene where she seems to get Miles to do what she wants, but her eyes fill with tears as she does so.  Is she ashamed of using her powers over him or does she simply have no control over whether or not her powers take effect at all?  Again, it’s unclear and that it is so unclear makes Jo, and by extension, all the more compelling.

Ultimately, Brubaker also gives us a fantastic ending to this issue, one that starts to tie this arc together with the last one while providing another big villain for Jo.  The result is that there’s a sense of historical continuity here – while the character and the time period may have changed, Jo is always the common link that binds it all together and she brings the baddies and demons along with her.

Conclusion: Another fantastic issue of Fatale.  As unbelievable as it may be, this series just keeps getting better.

Grade: A-

-Alex Evans