By: Ed Brubaker (story), Sean Phillips (art), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors)
The Story: It’s just as everyone feared—tattoos do make a guy cooler.
The Review: As intrigued as I’ve been by Jo’s invariably sordid encounters with various men, I’ve also been hoping to get a broader sense of what Fatale is really about. Again, immortal woman who drives men crazy is entertaining enough—certainly, it’s been viscerally horrifying enough. But I’m much more interested in the why’s and how’s of all this.* How immortal? Why men? Why crazy? And what for? Surely it can’t just be for the pointless torment of this poor woman and the men around her.
Fortunately, it seems like I’ll be getting my wish pretty soon, as Fraction reveals that Jo has been working on those very same questions herself. She is helped in this regard by Otto, a geriatric scholar who also happens to be the only man unaffected by Jo’s sway. This alone makes him an immediately arresting figure, especially once you take in all his body tattoos, placed on him as a child by his Native-American grandfather. That suggests a certain degree of foresight on someone’s part, doesn’t it, at least in regards to Jo?
But again, why? Is her only purpose to defy this cult that’s been pursuing her, as well as its disfigured leader? So what’s their purpose? There are signs we may learn all this soon; Otto indicates “the next convergence is coming,”** whatever that means. But even with Jo hard on the job, the issue doesn’t change much from its usual course, though it gets much more out of it than usual.
Meanwhile, Nick is proving to be the most interesting of Jo’s paramours, not so much because he’s any less in her spell—he’s definitely not, watching for her return from the window until he exhausts himself—but because he’s aware of her spell and somewhat in horror of it at the same time. He accurately describes the effect as something “between dream and nightmare,” knowing how wrong everything is, disturbed by it when alone, yet completely unconcerned when she’s around. All those questions about possible connections between his dad and Jo and about his own importance to Jo, they ebb and flow depending on how close she gets.
Jo doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of this, but with Nick she makes an attempt to be straight with him. This leads to some surprisingly frank discussions where Nick actually addresses her effect on him as something other (“Why is [Otto] immune to…whatever it is you do?“), not that it really matters. When Jo flatly states, “I know I’ve ruined your life,” he replies, “I don’t care about that.” But that’s not entirely true, either. As the issue closes and Nick finds himself a murderer for her sake, “I swear I almost run… But I only have one leg… And it’s way too late for running.” He knows he’s trapped, even if he manages to walk free.
Fatale is, at its heart, a drama driven by the psychological intensity of its characters, and Phillips’ art reflects that perfectly. It’s really the expressions which carry the weight of meaning in this issue. Brubaker’s scripting suggests a lot, but quite often you don’t grasp the interior of the characters until you see their face, like Jo’s gaze of pity as she tries to convince Nick to care about how she’s ruined his life, or the bright-eyed look of rapt innocence as he reassures her he’d “do anything for you.” Like a lot of indie artists, Phillips isn’t really equipped to handle constant motion, but in Fatale, it’s the build-up and the aftermath that provides the greatest impact anyway, and he’s terrific at capturing that kind of cathartic reaction.
Conclusion: It’s the same old song with a different chorus, but still a rather tuneful one to hum along to.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * And no, I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t gotten around to reading the back issues of Fatale, so if all the answers are there, In sincerely apologize.
** Ah, the always classic “convergence.” How many stories have I seen in the last year that featured a convergence? Legend of Korra, Thor: The Dark World… I’m sure there are others.