Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Second Printing for The Fade Out #1!

The debut issue of The Fade Out was released last week to great acclaim, not only in most of the reviews cited in the aggregator site Comic Book Roundup, but at major publications like Entertainment Weekly, tweets from fellow writers like Scott Snyder, and more offbeat sites such as Retcon Punch, Rock! Shop! Pop!, and Pipedream Comics -- really too many to list, with the most unusual approach to a review coming from Jim Mello at Coliseum of Comics.

With all the advance publicity for the book -- much of which we covered last time, plus a Newsarama interview with Ed Brubaker that was published after our post -- it may come as no surprise that The Fade Out was an immediate sellout at the distributor level, and Thursday Image Comics announced a second printing, whose cover we're reprinting below.

The book's success shouldn't be taken for granted, however.  Ed Brubaker writes that this is the "biggest print run" he and Sean Phillips have ever had, with a fair amount of overprinting, and he elaborates that the orders were more than double the Final Order Cutoff for the Fatale #1.

A period piece without superpowers, supernatural monsters, or even a direct allusion to a classic comic book like Archie, The Fade Out is the biggest success of Brubaker and Phillips' collaborative career -- at least so far.

The second printing is scheduled to be released on September 24th, along with the second issue AND the final trade paperback collection for their previous hit Fatale.

(And, as a complete aside, Sean Phillips is looking for help researching comic book artists who have done work on album covers.  I'm sure he'd appreciate any info our readers might have.)

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bullets: The Fade Out, Fatale, Criminal Reprints, and More!

It's been a whirlwind three weeks since the conclusion of Fatale, and so we're summarizing what we can, just before the debut of The Fade Out, in stores later today.

The Fatale Finale Reviews and Interviews.  The aggregator site Comic Book Roundup has links to seven very positive reviews from critics for Fatale #24, and I've seen additional praise from The Outhousers, FangirlNation, and I'd Rather Be Reading Comics.  The only mixed review I've seen is from The Savage Critics; I think Abhay Khosla makes a stronger argument that the story's expanding scope may have slowed its momentum than he does that the story's conclusion is chauvinistic.

If those positive reviews aren't enough, Eat Geek Play provided a list of six reasons everyone should read Fatale, and Nothing But Comics has an essay on the title's search for redemption.

After the series finale, Ed Brubaker provided a few post-mortem interviews about the horror-noir series, at Comic Book Resources and Complex Pop Culture, with the former providing a few spoiler-heavy insights into the series that even careful readers probably missed.

(As an aside, we do hope that digital readers took advantage of the Comixology sale mentioned in the previous post, as Fatale is no longer being offered in a deeply discounted bundle.)

• The Fade Out Preview, Interviews, and Early Reviews.  It's worth reiterating from last time, that the debut issue of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' The Fade Out reaches stores today, including in an over-sized "movie magazine" variant that features an exclusive eight-page look behind the scenes.

USA Today has just published an article on the series, with a brief interview with the creators and an extended eight-page preview of the issue.  This is only the latest bit of publicity for Brubaker and the series, which has included an August 12th podcast interview with Inkstuds Radio and two August 18th interviews with Multiversity Comics and IGN.  The series' debut even made Entertainment Weekly's Must List.

We're combing all these interviews carefully to make sure we don't miss any big news, beyond the Criminal news we mention below.

In the meantime, Boing Boing provided an advance look at the magazine variant, with a few pictures of some of the exclusive content.  Broken Frontier lists The Fade Out #1 as their pick of the week, Comicosity includes it in their week's "hot five," and we've seen very positive advance reviews from Unleash The FanboyComicbook.com, and Big Comic Page.

Paste Magazine also has an early review, giving the issue a grade of 9.0 out of ten and writing, "Hollywood has never looked so dark, so sinister and so seductive."

Darren Orf at Paste writes what we've known for years:  "The pair have generated so much provocative, successful work, that a Brubaker/Phillips byline might be one of the few insignias of a guaranteed good read in the comic industry."

 The Fade Out Retailer-Exclusive Variants.  Before moving on to other topics, we would like to highlight a bit of news that has flown mostly under the radar, that there are two variants to The Fade Out #1, both exclusive to the retailers that commissioned the cover artists to produce them.

(Sean Phillips tweeted that he received both variants along with his comp copies of the standard issue and the magazine variant.).

Jamie McKelvie produced the following glamorous variant cover for three retailers: Beachball Comics, Laughing Ogre, and Austin Books.

And Chip Zdarsky produced the more harrowing variant cover for DCBS.

 Heart of the Beast, On Sale Now.  In January, we reported that Dynamite Entertainment was releasing a prestige hardcover commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Heart of the Beast, written by Dean Motter and Judith Dupré, with painted watercolor artwork by Sean Phillips, who subsequently provided us with an exclusive first look at the final cover art.

We almost missed it entirely, but the hardcover went on sale last week.  CBR published a 12-page preview, and Amazon has an even more extensive preview.

 Sean Phillips' Artwork, On Exhibition in Kendal.  On Twitter, Sean Phillips has announced that his artwork is being featured in a small exhibition at the Baba Ganoush Cafe in Kendal, England, in the months leading up to the Lakes International Comics Art Festival, October 17-19.  Phillips has confirmed that the artwork will be for sale after the exhibition concludes.

 Velvet in the Times and on a T-Shirt.   In the wake of the off-beat success of Guardians of the Galaxy, The New York Times posted an article arguing that the comic book is usually better than the movie; along with three other titles, the writer recommends Brubaker's espionage comic Velvet for new readers.  The series is the focus of a Loikamania podcast interview with Brubaker published last week, and the series features heavily in Image Comics' November solicitations, released yesterday.  Along with The Fade Out #4 and Velvet #10, the month of November will see the release of a Velvet tee-shirt that "demands respect."

 Criminal Reprinted in January, Deluxe Fatale Volume 2 to be Published Later. Finally, one bit of news toward the end of yesterday's USA Today story caught my eye, and it cannot wait for a future blog post.

On the subject of Criminal, Brian Truitt reports, "Image will start re-releasing collections of the comic beginning in January."

We're about six months away from seeing Criminal back on the shelves, published by Image rather than Marvel's Icon imprint.  We'll do our best to investigate whether the new printings will differ from the Icon editions in any significant way. 

We're certainly further away from the second (and presumably final) deluxe hardcover collection of Fatale.  Although he generally doesn't comment on publishing plans until they are announced, Brubaker has tweeted to a reader that he can expect the second hardcover "At the earliest, a year or so after the final trade."  The fifth and final trade paperback collection, for "Curse the Demon," is currently scheduled for a September 24th release, so the second hardcover may be tentatively planned for the 2015 holiday season.

Regardless, next year should most and perhaps all of Brubaker and Phillips' creator-owned work in print and being published by Image Comics.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Look Back at Fatale, A Look Ahead to The Fade Out.

An extremely busy couple of weeks offline has kept me from blogging, but it's given me a chance to reflect on Fatale -- FYI, the entire run is now available for almost 50% off at Comixology, for $25 -- and to take an advance look at the debut issue for The Fade Out.

I've been intending to write one more lengthy essay to wrap up our look back at the Lovecraftian horror noir, but I'm not sure what more there is to say.

On the one hand, the series has been a little bit frustrating:  not only did the final issue not answer any of the numerous questions I had after re-reading the series, it actually raised a whole host of new questions.  What seemed to be Nicolas Lash's final fate, wasn't, and I'm not sure how that happened or whether that was really foreshadowed at all.  I don't know how exactly we got from the final showdown to the epilogue set one year later, without any apparent consequences for Nicolas' being a fugitive from the law.  And, I'm not quite sure how the story of the owl and the dragon quite fits into the big picture.  There was a brief discussion in the comments of the previous post, and I've added a few more thoughts there.

On the other hand, the series was immensely enjoyable.  The conclusion was surprising but emotionally satisfying, it was worth reading that second time, and I'm sure I'll be reading the whole series again soon.

The conclusion did remind me of the end to Sleeper.  Not to spoil either series, but the main characters had a similar ability to harm others by transferring pain to them, and both stories ended with bittersweet scenes in two very similar locales.

Readers of both books should know exactly what I mean.

Along with an interview with Brubaker, Phillips, and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser, the AV Club has published an exclusive five-page preview of The Fade Out #1, in stores this Wednesday.

Brubaker and Phillips have also graciously provided us with an advance look at the extra-large "movie magazine" variant, and we cannot recommend this book more highly.  The variant includes eight additional pages of behind-the-scenes extras, with Brubaker providing photos from his family's work in Hollywood, and with Phillips writing about the process producing the book from Brubaker's script.

The issue itself is -- aside from the title -- classic Criminal, moody noir with already broken characters, this time with the superficial glamour and deep corruption of postwar Hollywood.

The issue begins with a dramatis personae introducing the main ensemble characters, and the book is clearly going to be more expansive than the typical single-arc story of Criminal, but the series doesn't meander.

The Fade Out begins with debauchery, murder, and a cover-up...

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Conclusion of an Epic Short Story.

Fatale #24
released today, July 30, 2014
following a five-page preview

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Lovecraftian horror-noir epic Fatale draws to a close today, after twenty-four issues released over the course of 31 months. In the back pages, Brubaker writes that the story spanned 586 pages, echoing what Phillips had tweeted as his work wrapped up, and that makes the book the longest single work in their fifteen years of collaboration, longer even than the 24-issue run on Sleeper.

I'm still processing this final chapter of "Curse the Demon," and I want to give readers sufficient time to buy the issue and read it for themselves.

An advance review was published Monday at The MacGuffin, and the spoiler-free review rates the issue a 10/10, praising the series overall as a triumph and saying that this final issue ends the story in style.  Rather than rate the issue or series, I'd like simply to draw readers attention to a few observations.


The final chapter has quite a few sudden twists.  I set the book down at its midpoint -- where the staples show -- when my family met me for lunch, and that hour-long break ended up heightening the tension for a conclusion that I didn't really see coming.

Brubaker and Phillips managed the rare feat of confounding the expectations of even the most attentive readers while still providing a completely satisfying ending.  I wasn't the only person online writing about Fatale and speculating about its conclusion, and reading all this analysis enriched the experience without spoiling the ending.  So far as I could tell, nobody's guesswork really stumbled upon the ending.

And yet... it occurred to me early on in the series, that if X happened, Y would be a likely consequence, but I strongly doubted X would occur.  When it did, I was happy to see Y.

And, in hindsight, there's a fairly obvious, early clue about one aspect about how this arc would end.


In the midst of all the horror, there is one early scene of striking beauty, of Jo taking what she fears will be her last moonlight swim, but even that scene has a bit of unspoken menace.  Sean Phillips shows us that as she swims, Jo is surrounded by sharks, with only their dorsal fins visible above the waves.

Apart from learning more about the owl with the ribbon around the world, we didn't get any real answers to the questions I mentioned yesterday, but that's not a bad thing, as the answers weren't crucial to the story's resolution.

I recently read a 2012 article from The Atlantic, by Ian Buckwalter, on the effectiveness of horror anthologies.  Noticing that Lovecraft and Poe rarely wrote anything other than short stories, he begins with a quote from Raymond Carver.

"Get in, get out. Don't linger. Go on."

It felt like this is exactly what Fatale did, despite its length and the often intricate plotting and artwork.  The story was vast in its scope, covering four different eras at length and having Josephine's curse influence a half-dozen fully realized characters:  Walt Booker, Hank Raines, Miles, Wulf, Lance Hickok, and finally Nicolas Lash.

And yet, the overall effect is still like reading "The Call of Cthulhu," where we grasp enough of the larger world to dread what we don't see.

It's like seeing the fin and not knowing how big the shark is beneath the surface.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: One Very Wrong Theory and A Few Unanswered Questions.

The Fatale finale reaches stores tomorrow, doubtlessly with a few more twists and shocking revelations.

This past Friday, a truly bizarre theory crossed my mind, one that I'm happy to confirm is completely off base:  the theory is very wrong, both in being inaccurate and in being deranged.

In re-reading the series, I had noticed that Nicolas appeared to be quite important to Jo's plans, but they had briefly met only three times over the course of more than three decades:  when young Nicolas accompanied his father and Hank Raines on their 1978 road trip to LA, at Hank's funeral in 2011, and at Hank's estate that night when the Bishop's goons attacked.  Josephine whispered something to his father in '78, and apparently she drove him to madness around 2000 for reasons still unknown.

In constructing the timeline we posted yesterday, I determined that Nicolas was born about the same time Jo's son Willie committed suicide -- and I recalled never seeing a single appearance or even a mention of Nicolas' mother.

My bizarre theory was that Nicolas was Josephine's second son, fathered by Johnny Lash, and my guess is summarized below.
Perhaps, after forcing Hank out of her life, Josephine was still in contact with his friend Johnny Lash, keeping up with Johnny as a way to keep an eye on Hank.  Still in shock and grief after Willie's death, she allows herself to seduce Johnny, and she got pregnant again with another son.  To protect her son Nicolas, Jo sends him to Johnny to raise him as a single father, and perhaps she uses her curse to make Johnny forget about their love affair. 
Maybe Johnny takes Dominic to LA because there isn't a mother in the picture, and Josephine whispers to Johnny to take care of his son, because Dominic is her son, too.  And perhaps after the events in LA, her research with Otto the librarian reveals that a biological son is either ideal or outright necessary to whatever ritual would have to be performed to defeat the Bishop.
Sometime around 2000, Johnny finds out about Jo's plan for his son and tries to stop her, but she drove him to madness to keep him quiet and protect her plan.
Jo strikes up an otherwise unnecessary conversation with Nicolas at Hank's funeral, rescued Hank's manuscript from the car crash for him, and saved him from Lance because he is especially important to her plans.
The theory accounts for the chronology quite well -- and the repeated theme of fathers and sons -- but it would have meant that the love scene in issue #23 was outright incest, and I'm glad that Ed Brubaker wrote back to write to shoot down the theory, writing, "That would be sick, even for me."

(I'm glad the series doesn't go down that dark path for its own sake, but I'll also admit to a little pride in concocting an otherwise plausible theory that Brubaker thinks crossed the line.)

Though my theory was wrong, it does highlight a few lingering  mysteries.

Some mysteries I think we've been able to solve in the course of this month-long review.  Brubaker confirmed that we correctly deduced that Otto the librarian is Milkfed's grandson. We pointed to the confrontation with Jo in issue #4 as the point where Walt Booker had a change of heart against betraying her -- where he "almost forgot" the decent man he really was.  And, we constructed some reasonable explanations for the events in Nicolas' life following Hank's funeral.

Josephine and the Bishop's goons were both trying to find the Bishop's eyes, which Hank Raines had kept in a Santa Barbara bank box; after she retrieved the eyes, she gave them to the sadist Nathan for safe keeping until she needed them for her plan of attack against the Bishop.  Meanwhile, a woman robbed Nicolas completely on her own, and she subsequently crossed paths with Lance Hickok, who killed her for the stolen manuscript of Hank's first book, abridged the book to protect Josephine, and published the book probably to fund his hunt for Josephine.

There are still other questions that remain unanswered.

• It appears from the preview that we'll have some answers about the owl with the ribbon around the world, but will we learn about this creature's significance?

• Will we learn more about the Bishop's mysterious rival?

• Just what was going on between Josephine and Nicolas' father Johnny?  What did she whisper to him in 1978?  And why did she drive him to madness two decades later?

• And what is the reason that some humans can see into the shadow world and be immune to its madness-inducing influence?

That last question was raised by Nick Hill in the comments to the yesterday's post.  He astutely noticed that, in issue #11, Alfred Ravenscroft's immunity to the apparent cult leader McVicar was mentioned as Jo ran screaming from his home.

"And so Alfred Ravenscroft never got to tell her his secret.  That he'd figured out why Mr McVicar's charms hadn't worked on him... that it was the same reason he could see the fire burning deep inside Josephine.  And that's when he realized she didn't even know what she was."

The immunity was mentioned, but never explained.

Similarly, in issue #2, the Bishop taunts Walt Booker about his own immunity.

"You ever wonder why your cryptographer friend went crazy translating that page... but you were fine?"

Booker said he didn't wonder, and the subject was never raised again.  We do know from issue #4 that, even in his childhood, Booker could see the hidden realm of "ghosts and monsters and even angels of a sort," and "an unseen clockwork that made the universe tick."  That ability may have been just another symptom of a deeper root cause.

(I do wonder about those "angels of a sort."  If one were to make an appearance in the last issue, it would undercut the generally hopeless tones of noir and horror, and it would seem like a deus ex machina -- or rather, an angelus ex machina -- but even this brief mention in the first arc gives readers a sliver of hope, however small, that the universe of Fatale isn't ultimately malevolent.)

Too many answers might interrupt the momentum of the last issue and dispel the mood of dread that the series has created.  The story is ultimately a mix of horror and noir, not a systematic description of the fictional universe that Brubaker and Phillips have created, so unanswered questions may be part of the point, even if the creators have answers that they're deliberately withholding.

Still, I suspect that some of the series' most important questions will be answered, and that the answers may come as a well-earned surprise even to careful readers like ourselves.

I'm looking forward to it.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Timeline.

Reviewing Fatale, I drew up the following timeline, piecing together all the events that I could.  The timeline omits important events that couldn't be traced to a particular timeframe, such as the Bishop's birth, and it passes over otherwise important characters whose stories were limited to a single arc, such as Miles, Walt's crooked partner Lannie Dalton, and the mobster "Mayday" Lucarelli.

I tried to cite my sources, with issue numbers in parentheses, and I give a few unproven conjectures in brackets.

Our hope is that your reading this timeline is as helpful in seeing the big picture of this horror-noir comic as I found constructing it.


c. AD 1244 – Josephine’s predecessor Mathilda is cursed with immortality  and no memory of her previous life. (12)

1286 – In the Languedoc region of France, Mathilda is burned at the stake by the inquisitors of the White Brotherhood, for her curse and the effects it has on the townspeople nearby.  Immortal, she survives and finds sanctuary with a hermit named Ganix, whose fairy tales include a reference to the owl with the thread of the world.   Several years later, both are found by an order known for the yellow cross on its tunic.  The order is led by a predecessor of the Bishop Sommerset, and he kills the watchman Ganix for betraying them. and evidently “devours” Mathilda,  Mathilda kills the Bishop and his men, but their dark gods "devour" her, resulting in a fire that consumed the forest.  Afterwards, a mysterious book is discovered in an abandoned shack. (12)

[UPDATE: Brubaker has kindly corrected our garbled summary, that it is the Bishop's dark gods and not the Bishop himself who "devours" the Consort.  The Bishop sacrifices the cursed woman, and his gods feast on that sacrifice.]

[We suspect that this book is the Bishop’s “bible.”]

c. 1822 – Josephine’s immediate predecessor Bonnie Smith dies and becomes cursed, after a party on a boat in New York. (13)

1883 – In Colorado, the  outlaw “Black” Bonnie is apprehended by Professor Waldo Smythe’s half-Indian son Milkfed.  Bonnie was being pursued by the cult’s inhuman henchmen, and Milkfed kills them so that the professor can locate their church tower and steal their “bible,” using Bonnie as bait.  The professor is killed, but Milkfed continues to protect Bonnie. (13)

c. 1886 – Alfred Ravenscroft is born. (11)

1898 – Twelve-year-old Alfred Ravenscroft is taken on a trip through Mexico, on an expedition with a rich man named McVicar and  servants that are more like religious devotees.  McVicar is evidently seeking “the doorway to the gods,” and Ravenscroft stumbles across an ancient occult book in McVicar’s tent and flees back home in terror. (11)

[We suspect that McVicar is the Bishop’s predecessor, or perhaps his “rival.”]

c. 1905 – Milkfed dies, evidently of natural causes. (13).

1906 – Having been captured by the cult, Bonnie is “devoured” in the catacombs beneath San Francisco, and the merely human Sommerset becomes the monster known as the Bishop.  Evidently a result from the bizarre ritual, the Great San Francisco Earthquake occurs on May 18th. (5, 13, 22)

c. 1913 - Josephine is born. (23)

c. 1914 - The Bishop serves as a German officer in World War I. (22)

c. 1935 – In Fresno, Josephine dies at age 22 in a bizarre ritual and is resurrected.  Cursed, she slowly discovers her usually irresistible power over men, and she confirms her immortality by attempting to commit suicide at least 17 times.  Early in the discovery of her powers over men, she  finds an eerily familiar pulp story that echoes her experiences (3, 11, 20,  23).

1936 – In Texas, Jo seduces and abandons the police officer Nelson en route to tracking down the author of the eerily familiar pulp story originally titled, “To the Unseen Eyes.”  She finds the writer Alfred Ravenscroft and forces him to take her to his mother, and after seeing his mother’s spectral form, she learns that there really is an unseen world visible to a small number of people.  After the ghost of his mother leaves him in anger, Ravenscroft commits suicide.  Elsewhere, the Bishop finds and interrogates Nelson, learning that his quarry’s name is Josephine but not reaching Ravenscroft in time to question him. (11, 14)

c. 1940-1943 – Jo finds the wise old woman Mirela in occupied Paris and, over the course of a few months, she learns enough magic to keep herself safe.  Mirela tells her about the “followers and fanatics” hiding among the Nazis, and Jo ignores her warning not to seek them out. (14)

1943 – In Romania around November, Josephine is captured and nearly “devoured” sacrificed by the Bishop, working as an officer of the SS. She is rescued by Sgt. Walter Booker, who takes from the ceremony an ancient stone knife and a page fragment from the Bishop’s “bible.” (5, 14)

Frightened by the near-miss in Romania, Jo seeks safety in her relationship with Booker, teaching him everything Mirela had taught her.  In Paris around the time of the city’s liberation in August 1944, Mirela tells both of them about the ribbon around the world.  After the war, the two move to San Francisco, where Booker joins the police. (2, 5, 14)

1945 – In Japan and probably in August, corresponding with the two atomic bombings, the Bishop’s mysterious rival takes the victory that he thinks should have been his with the ritual in Romania. (22)

1955 – Writer Dominic Henry “Hank” Raines marries Sylvia Maria Bernley. (3)

1956 – The Bishop’s cult finds and murders Jo’s friend Leroy Kressler, in a ritual designed to draw out the now crooked cop Walt Booker.  Jo betrays Booker to the investigative reporter Hank Raines to escape her life as a kept woman, and Booker almost betrays Jo to the Bishop to find a cure for his cancer. Booker has a change of heart and attacks the Bishop and his cult in their catacombs, dying in the ensuing chaos but not before cutting out the Bishop’s eyes and giving them to Jo.  Jo and Hank leave San Francisco, and the Bishop is reborn in the body of Hank’s son, who was presumed dead, ripped from the womb of his murdered wife, eight months pregnant. (1-5)

1957 – In June, Hank Raines writes “The Losing Side of Eternity,” a surreal story and possibly the best work he ever wrote.  Influenced by Josephine and the events in 1956, he mentions the owl with the thread of the world, and the story’s only mundane detail is the accidental death of the wife of the narrator, a stand-in for Hank. (1, 3)

1959 – Hank opens a safe deposit box at the Santa Barbara Savings and Loan. (6)

[Our theory is that Hank uses this box to keep the Bishop’s eyes for safekeeping.]

1960 – After Jo had helped sell his novel by influencing the literary agent Alan Marshal, Hank Raines publishes his first detective novel, on the way to becoming a bestselling writer of works such as “Hatchet Job.” (1, 6)

c. 1960 – Hank and Josephine have had a son Willie. Hank eventually realizes Jo’s effect on him, and in denial and anger, she forces him out of her life.  Hank leaves LA, having lived there briefly “in the late ‘50s.”  (6, 8, 23)

At age 13, Willie attempts to rape his mother, is institutionalized, and commits suicide a week later.  (23)

c. 1970 – The Bishop, going by the name of Hansel, leads a version of the cult called the Method Church.  His charisma notoriously had got the attention of Charles Manson, who in 1971 was convicted of conspiracy to murder.

c. 1970-1972 – The photographer Johnny Lash has a son, Nicolas.  Johnny’s friend Hank Raines will become Nicolas’ godfather. (8)

1978 – In the summer, Jo discovers that the Bishop is alive, leading the Method Church.  After “nearly 20 years” of being out of her life, Hank Raines visits Jo to warn her that the cult is looking for her; Hank’s friend Johnny Lash has brought his son Nicolas on their road trip to LA, and at age six or seven he meets Jo for the first time.  Jo obtains the Bishop’s “bible” but, following an attack on her house by the Method Church, she abandons her life as a recluse in Los Angeles. (6-10)

After leaving LA, Jo haunts occult book stores and auctions and looks for an ally who shares Mirela and Walt Booker’s awareness of the darker world in the shadows.  She finds Otto the librarian, Milkfed’s grandson. (21)

[In email, Ed Brubaker has confirmed our theory that Milkfed is Otto’s half-Indian grandfather.]

1995 – Otto sends Jo and her friend Gavin to Seattle to locate some occult literature, and the serial killer Wulf finds her and tries to kill her.  Traumatized into a state of amnesia, Jo stumbles upon the rock singer Lance Hickok, wreaks havoc with his band Amsterdam, and reveals her location to the Bishop and to Wulf.  In his continued hunt for Jo, Wulf kills Gavin and all of Lance’s bandmates, but Jo kills him in turn when she rescues Lance.  Lance is blamed for the multiple murders at his band’s house, and Jo soon leaves him after teaching him the basics of a fugitive life.  Lance becomes a serial killer in his attempt to find Josephine. (15-19)

c. 2000 – Nicolas Lash finds his father Johnny raving like a madman and has him institutionalized. (1, 20)

2011 –Hank Raines dies, and his godson Nicolas is made the executor of his estate.  Jo talks with Nicolas after the funeral, and she rescues him from the Bishop’s goons, who invade Hank’s house near the coast of northern California.  The goons chase them in a small private plane, and Nicolas loses a leg in the resulting car crash, but Jo ensures that he still has Hank’s unpublished manuscript, “The Losing Side of Eternity.” (1)

One month later, Nicolas researches the wife he never knew Dominic had and discovers her grisly murder.  Suspecting that Jo doesn’t age, he visits Wingate Asylum and asks his father Johnny about a picture he probably took, of Hank Raines and Jo’s supposed grandmother.  Johnny begins laughing maniacally. (3, 5)

c. 2012 – Hank has abandoned his old life seeking out Josephine, on the pretense of researching Hank’s life for his godfather’s old publisher.  An investigator Mark Garvin informs him of Hank’s safe deposit box in Santa Barbara, but Jo has already emptied the box; Garvin then dies helping Hank escape from one of the Bishop’s goons, confirming that Hank hasn’t been paranoid about men following him. (6)

After being on the run for two months, Nicolas is seduced by a woman who steals Hank’s manuscript.  She finally tracks her down, but she had been murdered, and the manuscript had been taken.  Nicolas is arrested for the woman’s death, and eight months later he discovers that Hank’s manuscript had been published. (8, 10)

Soon after, a man calling himself Nelson breaks Nicolas out of the courthouse.  On the run for a week, the two return to California, where Nicolas discovers that Nelson had printed an abridged version of Hank’s manuscript.  He realizes that “Nelson” is really Lance Hickok, who drags Nicolas to his basement, to torture him and draw Josephine to him. (15, 17, 19)

2014 – In January, in northern California, Josephine begins enacting her plan to end her battle with the Bishop, first rescuing Nicolas from Nelson/Lance, driving the latter to madness.  The Bishop picks up on her trail of destruction and finds the now lunatic Lance.  Jo retrieves the Bishop’s eyes from the sadist Nathan, whom Nicolas kills, unwittingly completing the requirements of a ritual for Jo.  Jo makes love to Nicolas in a kind of bizarre ceremony in Otto’s house, sharing her pain and tragedy.  Nicolas truly falls in love with Josephine, but he next finds himself in a strange forest, stumbling upon the Bishop and his men. (20-23).

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: Jo's Greatest Loss.

Fatale #23
released June 18, 2014
following a six-page preview

It was just last month that the penultimate issue of Fatale was released.  Ed Brubaker describes it as the "all sex issue," but the most important aspect is neither the physical intimacy between Nicolas and Josephine nor the increasingly psychedelic mindscape of their love-making:  what matters most is the emotional intimacy resulting from Josephine's complete (or nearly complete) self-disclosure.

Nicolas sees her losses and her hurt, and the AV Club astutely observes that  his empathy for her is what transforms his infatuation into affection, his lust into love.  As Nicolas himself narrates:
"It is the white-hot center of her.  The broken center.  And I understand finally... That that's where love is found, in our broken places.  In our sympathy.  And I know how she does what she does... because my heart will never stop breaking for her."
As The Passengers put it, sex is "a different kind of conversation," and this particular conversation begins immediately after the events of issue #21 -- the debauched party where Nicolas killed the sadist Nathan and Jo retrieved and opened the box containing the Bishop's eyes -- and afterward all this, Nicolas wakes to find himself in a strange forest, and he immediately stumbles upon the Bishop and his cult.

When Jo rescued Nicolas from Lance the rock singer turned murderous drifter, Nicolas realized that she probably drove his father to a madness from which he never recovered.  In the midst of their intimate conversation, Jo tells him that she needs her help to end the battle with the Bishop -- to end it, not to win it -- and she warns that it's going to hurt.  Even with the intimacy that permits Nicolas to know and love her truly, it's not clear that Josephine has revealed everything, and it's not clear that she isn't simply using Nicolas to accomplish her goals.

Earlier, we wrote about how Hank Raines' sons have proven to be crucial to the story.  His son through his murdered wife Sylvia was taken from her womb and became the host for the reincarnated Bishop, and his godson Nicolas Lash is proving to be central to Josephine's final battle with the Bishop.  But it's his son with Josephine who causes that great loss from which she'll never recover:  her curse corrupted him, and at age thirteen he attempted to rape her and then committed suicide shortly after being committed to an insane asylum.

In the excellent, lengthy podcast interview with Brubaker, 3 Chicks Review Comics notes some of the subtle foreshadowing that point to this tragedy.  In "The Devil's Business," we discover that Josephine is no longer with Hank, and her great secret is that she has had a son whose fate was not yet revealed to the reader.

After that, we repeatedly see her curse's effect on even young boys.  In issue #16, we discover that Wulf became a serial killer after a brief encounter with Jo when he was a injured child lost in Disneyland; and as recently as issue #20, we see the immediate obsession that seizes a small boy in footed pajamas, as he had been in the back seat of the cultist's car that Josephine hijacked.

What may have thrown the reader off the scent is Bonnie's story, in issue #13.  We see that Bonnie had a child without any apparent incident, though the child was murdered when natives kidnapped the two of them, but Bonnie had a daughter, and the curse evidently only affects men.

It's not mentioned at all, but careful readers might realize that Josephine's loss may be even more tragic, in that it was entirely preventable.

If Josephine had met the librarian Otto before giving birth to a son, she could have known about the tattooed markings that would have inoculated him from the effects of her curse -- the markings that Otto was given as a boy, like his grandfather Milkfed before him.  I've already noted that Otto appears to have an unnamed cameo in issue #13, set in Europe in 1943, but he and Josephine evidently didn't cross paths until she left Los Angeles in the late 70's, long after Willie's birth and death.

If Josephine had been more proactive in seeking out knowledge about her curse, the cult, and the dark gods that lay behind both, she could have learned how to protect her son, but her fear may have led to his madness and suicide.

That's another layer of tragedy to her greatest loss, and I believe she is made even more real and more sympathetic by the likelihood that her personal failings had a hand in an otherwise avoidable tragedy.

She is much more than a femme fatale, and we'll see if the sympathetic and immortal but all-too-human Josephine can find a happy ending in the grand finale.

Fatale #24 reaches stores this Wednesday, July 30th.

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