Fatale is currently the best horror book on the stands. It is also the best noir book on the stands as well as the best nail-biting suspense book being published today. You could say it is the best book coming out from any of the big publishers except for possibly Saga. Possibly.
Written by Ed Brubaker who has been cutting his teeth on similar genre themed books over the last dozen or so years as well as Catwoman, Captain America, Winter Soldier and the X-Men, it is by far his masterpiece. And aiding him on art duties is Sean Phillips, his co-conspirator over the years on titles such as Point Blank, Criminal and Incognito putting one hundred and ten percent on every page. The book is a work of art on all fronts.
The various volumes jump decades structure-wise telling a tale that takes place over many years. The first book takes place in the 1950s, while the second takes place during the 1970s. The third volume jumps between decades as they are single issue stories. This is not the first book to take this approach but by doing so, Brubaker gives the book a sense of history, of there being a lot to tell during the course of his tale. It also gives him the ability to jump back and forth through time to insert the puzzle pieces wherever he wishes as evidenced in the third volume.
The main character of the book is Josephine, the titular Fatale of the story. She’s a beautiful young woman who passes between the stories and the years seemingly never aging. It is a mystery that the author does not seem to intend on telling us for some time. There is also the ostensible hero of the book who is a different character with each story arc. Josephine seems to possess a mysterious power to make men fall in love with her and to do anything she so wishes among other things. Queue up our hero. It is an interesting dynamic that is played between the two during the various arcs and keeps the reader compelled throughout each one.
The villains of the book are not your standard fair either. They wear the trappings of men and look as you or I, but in reality are not. What they are exactly has not been explained either but we know they are bad news. You might think they are some kind of monster, and they might be for they look it, but really you won’t know until Brubaker wants to tell us.
The art is moody and dark and evocative of old Noir films starring Robert Mitchum. It’s desperate and tense, manic sometimes; drawing us into the nightmare and making us want to go there. Phillips pulls no punches – he hits you square in the face and we take it gladly. We welcome it even. It’s almost Lovecraftian and 30’s pulp and modern sensibilities all mashed together into this work of art before us.
Fatale is by far the best book that Brubaker has ever written. By a mile, maybe two. The story and situations are smart, the dialogue smarter. Once you start the book you simply cannot stop reading. He takes you with him for better or worse wherever it leads and you go willingly, needing to see what happens. I do not think there are too many writers in the medium who can do that and Brubaker is one of them. I know that I will keep reading this book as long as it is being published.
Does this edge out Saga as the best book on the stands today? Yes, yes it does. But only by a little. That’s all that counts in the end though.
5 out of 5