Thursday, July 03, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: "The Losing Side of Eternity"

Fatale #3 reached stores on March 7th, 2012, following a five-page preview.  The issue ended up with a second printing, with a black-and-white variation of the first printing's cover of the crooked cop, Walt Booker.

With the next issue, initial orders finally caught up with demand, so this would be the last issue with multiple covers until we saw a couple rare variants for Fatale #15, kicking off the fourth arc, "Pray for Rain."

The issue begins with an interlude, returning us to Nicolas' story.  In the month after Dominic's funeral and Nicolas' fateful first encounter with Jo, he became obsessed with his only connection to the mysterious woman -- "The Losing Side of Eternity." Nicolas had just found this early unpublished manuscript written by his godfather, and Jo had recovered it for him after the explosion that left him crippled.

Fessing up in the author's page at the end of the issue, Ed Brubaker hoped that readers would draw the wrong inferences about the manuscript, assuming that it was an autobiographical account of the events in 1956.  Its contents were much stranger than that, and it would set a theme that would recur throughout the series, a motif of important but mysterious books and other works of art.
  • The first arc, "Death Chases Me" (issues 1-5), kicks off with the discovery of "The Losing Side of Eternity," which would continue to play a role in the series. The closing issue reveals that Jo's "heirloom" was a fragment of a parchment of "an unspoken language written on the skin of some ancient wyrm."
  • "The Devil's Business" (issues 6-10) centers on a film reel of an evidently grotesque ritual, which Miles impulsively took from the Bishop's "Method Church," and an ancient book that Jo took with Miles help.
  • In "The Case of Alfred Ravenscroft" (issue 11), Jo sought out the Lovecraftian writer for the origin of his strange pulp story, originally titled "To The Unseen Eyes."
  • In "A Lovely Sort of Death" (issue 12), Jo's medieval predecessor Mathilda found refuge with a hermit named Ganix, who told her fairy tales, including one about an owl with "the thread of the world in its claw."  After she disappeared, a mysterious book was discovered in an abandoned shack.
  • In "Down the Darkest Trail" (issue 13), Jo's nineteenth-century predecessor Bonnie rode with Professor Waldo Smythe, a scholar on a mission to steal the cult's"bible."
  • In "Just a Glance Away" (issue 14), Sargent Walt Booker found a cryptic map in Romania, and the map leads him to the Bishop's subterranean temple.  There, he finds Jo, rescues her from a dark ritual, and takes a single page fragment from a book on the altar.
  • In "Pray for Rain" (issues 15-19), the sociopath Wulf stumbles upon Jo's books in his effort to find her, while she unwittingly torments the grunge band Amsterdam and inspires their greatest song.
  • The final arc, "Curse The Demon," charts Jo's proactive plan to confront the Bishop after the events in "The Devil's Business."  Early on she meets the librarian Otto, who sees the world as it is and shares her interest in occult literature.
Presumably we're seeing the history of a single important book, first found in Mathilda's forest, used in the ritual in Romania, and stolen by Jo in Los Angeles.

It's a cliche, that writers write about writing, but all these arcane works serve a dual purpose.  Fatale is noir, and each relic is a MacGuffin like the statue in The Maltese Falcon.  Fatale is also cosmic horror, where men are driven mad when they discover some hidden horror. 

Brubaker and Phillips' latest series shows how man can preserve what he has learned and communicate it across the centuries, and how this forbidden knowledge can spread like a virus.

Or like a curse.

And piecing together the chronology with these two-dozen comic books on my desk, I'm experiencing first-hand the thrill of uncovering dark secrets.

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