Friday, July 18, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: Crime Scenes.

Fatale #15
released June 26, 2013
following a six-page preview

We return to Nicolas' tragic story with Fatale #15, the first chapter in "Pray for Rain," released on the same day as the trade paperback for Book Three:  "West of Hell."  It appears to be Image's very shrewd standard practice to release the previous arc's trade on the same day as the first issue of the new arc, making it easy for new readers to jump on.

This issue was the first to have multiple covers since the "Beauty" and the "Beast" covers for issue #1 and the additional printings for the first three issues.  I believe we missed this at the time, but that year's Image Expo featured an exclusive variant that had Sean Phillips' untouched black-and-white artwork for the cover; the original piece is still available at Splash Page Art, at least at the time of this writing.

The issue was also available as an elusive "ghost variant" with cover artwork by Brubaker's Catwoman collaborator, Darwyn Cooke.

What's most notable about all three covers might be their subject:  for the first time, we see Nicolas Lash on the cover.  He'll appear again on the cover to issue #21 and on the cover for the final trade collection, "Curse the Demon," but I'm surprised how infrequently he appears here, as he narrates the very first page of the series and appears in more than half of the title's 24 issues.

Inside, we find Nicolas trading one form of captivity for another, and the issue features a couple of crimes that are almost prosaic compared to the bizarre rituals in most of the book:  a jailbreak and a bank robbery, the kind of stuff that would be right at home in the world of Criminal.

We come to find out that the two crimes aren't entirely unrelated, and we should have figured that out sooner in light of Ed Brubaker's occasional use of clever scene transitions.  He doesn't draw attention to those juxtapositions by having the dialogue in the first scene finish as a caption in the next scene, and the transitions usually occur with a page break as well, so only careful readers will find them.

Perhaps my favorite such transition in Fatale is between pages 17 and 18 of issue #8.  In one scene we see the Bishop's bizarre ritual to find Jo, in the other we see Jo talking to Miles on the beach as they're on the way to planning to steal the Bishop's cult scripture.
Page 17, last panel, narrator:  And soon [the Bishop would] have her... and he'd know that touch again.

Page 18, first panel, Josephine:  This feels amazing... you should come in... just get your feet wet.

In issue #15, we transition from Nicolas' trek as an unwilling fugitive in the present day to the aftermath of the bank robbery in Seattle in 1995.  The visual similarities are striking, with both sides of the transition showing figures hurrying in the rain, moving from left to right.

In hindsight, the connection between the two scenes should have been obvious.

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