Wednesday, July 09, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Turning Point.

September, 2012, was a turning point for Ed Brubaker, as he announced the end of his for-hire work with Winter Soldier #14, out the following December.  He would focus on two creator-owned works, and it's now clear what that meant in the immediate future:  Fatale with art by Sean Phillips, and the spy thriller Velvet with art by Steve Epting.

Fatale #8 was released a month after that announcement, on October 3rd.  It was the first of two issues in that month with five Wednesday's, and it was accompanied by a five-page preview.



On re-reading this issue for today's post, I realize I may have to rethink my theory from yesterday.  Then again, maybe not.  The issue does explain Suzy's misguided devotion to the Bishop, but that could be nothing more than his merely human charisma preying on her history of abusive relationships.  I still don't believe the series reveals anything about the inner thoughts of the merely human men who follow the Bishop, and I don't believe any hint is given that they're being manipulated supernaturally.

As I mentioned earlier, this issue features a rare flashback on Dominic's life, a long-forgotten memory of when his dad Johnny Lash and his godfather Hank Raines visited Jo.  We see parts of the same events in the course of the 70's narrative, as Hank warns Jo of the Bishop's henchmen snooping around after her being discovered in issue #7.

Jo tells Hank to find somewhere safe to hide, and he evidently goes to the secluded manor we see at the very beginning of issue #1, evidently kept safe by Hank's new-found knowledge of magic symbols and other spells -- or at least, kept safe until his death.

(Jo tells Johnny something, but we don't find out exactly what:  the relationship between Dominic's father and Jo has remained a mystery, at least through 23 issues.)

Perhaps most importantly, the issue represents a turning point for Jo.  After Hank leaves, "aging, fragile, scared," she decides to fight the dark cult that's been pursuing her from the beginning.
"...There's a fire starting insider her, she thinks.

"She's tired of being afraid...

"Tired of hiding...

"Tired of memories...

"...and tired of running from this g--d--n storm."

She recruits Miles and his friend, the aggressive veteran Rat, to raid the Method Church's compound and steal their book of occult secrets.

The series was originally planned to run 12 issues, but in the month before its debut, Brubaker had already changed that number to 15 or 16, which would place this inflection point at the halfway point in the series.  In his page of notes at the end of the very next issue, Brubaker announced that the series had become an ongoing series, running "until it's over."

The interesting thing is where this decision lands in Jo's timeline, which can be pieced together from reviewing these first two arcs and by looking ahead to issues 11, 14, 21, and 23.

--

Josephine was cursed in Fresno, California, apparently in or just before 1935.  The "convergence" that resulted in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 involved the ritual sacrifice of her predecessor Bonnie and the inhuman transformation of the Bishop, but clearly not Jo's transformation.

(Is the Bishop generally privy to such transformations?  It's clearly a violent cult ritual, but it seems odd that each cult leader has to hunt down the Consort if he had a chance to keep her captive in her confusion following her first death.)

Still "half-crazy" from not realizing her new power over men, she stumbles across a pulp story that echoes her own experience.  She tracks down the author, a stand-in for Lovecraft named Alfred Ravencroft, in Texas in 1936. 

Confirming that she's not crazy and that other people are aware of this dark, hidden reality, she searches the world for others like Ravencroft -- not knowing that a dark cult had nearly caught her in Texas -- and she finds the knowledgeable gypsy woman Mirela in occupied Paris.  Mirela teaches her enough magic to keep herself safe, and she warns Jo not to seek out further knowledge from the "followers and fanatics" hiding among the Nazis.  Jo ignores the warning. 

In 1943 she travels to Romania, and she is captured and nearly sacrificed by the Bishop on the night of another convergence.  She barely escapes with her life, having been rescued by Sgt. Walt Booker, who also sees the world as it really is.

Nearly paralyzed with fear over the near-miss in Romania and haunted by nightmares about that night and the monsters pursuing her, she remains Booker's kept woman as he works as an eventually corrupt police detective in San Francisco.  She decides to to try to escape only when his deteriorating health takes its toll on his spirit and makes him no longer trustworthy.

In 1956, she reaches out to investigative journalist Hank Raines, coincidentally when the Bishop has begun to track Jo down through her friend Leroy Kressler; we never see Leroy see except as the victim of a ritualized murder that Booker is investigating at the beginning of "Death Chases Me."

After the resulting second near-miss, where Booker cuts out the Bishop's eyes at the cost of his own life, Jo runs away with Hank Raines.  They have a child, and Jo makes Hank leave when he tries to warn her about her affect on even her young son.  Willie attempts to rape Jo, is institutionalized, and immediately commits suicide, and rather than try to find safety with another man, Jo tries to seclude herself from all men, living as a recluse in the Hollywood hills.  For almost twenty years, she succeeds, the apparent sole exception being a slip-up with the gardener.

(In her house, she has a bookcase of occult books that she says she inherited, presumably from Mirela or perhaps Booker.  There was apparently no effort to add to that collection and risk further exposure to the Bishop and his followers.)

In the summer of 1978, a struggling actor named Miles and his injured friend Suzy stumble into her backyard, with a film depicting a familiar ritual being performed by the cult called the Method Church.  She spies a book being used during the ritual, and she gets her hands on that book, leaving a trail of corpses in her wake and discovering that the now-blind Bishop still lives and is in command of the Method Church.

We're told in flashback, in issue #23, that "not long after Josephine left Los Angeles, she began haunting occult shops and antiquarian book auctions."  With Mirela "long dead," she needed to find someone else attuned to the hidden world, someone who could read the Bishop's book.  She finds the librarian Otto, who helps her formulate a plan of attack.

(Otto is also revealed to be the grandson of "some half-Indian mystic," perhaps Milkfed, who helped protect Bonnie more than a century before Jo first meets Nicolas as an adult.)

--

Cursed around 1935, the immortal Josephine takes her first truly proactive steps against the Bishop in 1978, and her final plan of attack begins to unfold at Hank Raines' funeral in 2011.

Jo's decision to fight back occurs just more than halfway through her tragic tale.

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