Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bullets: Fatale Finale Preview, Fade Out Glimpses, Velvet, Void, and Much More.

We interrupt our month-long look back at Fatale to cover the just-released preview of the final issue, along with quite a few items we would have otherwise missed.  We'll look at Fatale #19 later this evening:  for now, keep reading for some early looks at the interior art of The Fade Out, the latest issue of Ed Brubaker's other creator-owned comic, and Sean Phillips' sci-fi thriller.

• Fatale #24 Preview, Confirmed for July 30th Release.   After posting some gruesome inkwork on his blog, Sean Phillips announced that he finished his work on Fatale around June 23rd, finishing the 586th page of the horror-noir series -- implying that the final, extra-long issue has 31 pages of story.  He then posted two pieces of artwork for the extra features in the Fatale finale, for an essay by Jess Nevins on "fallen heroes and redeemed villains."

On Twitter today, Phillips announced that his "comp copies" of Fatale #24 have just arrived, meaning that the issue is "probably out next week."  The accompanying image didn't provide a clear look, but the cover has clearly changed; it appears to be the solicited artwork, significantly recolored, as shown in the comparison above.

Just in the last hour, Comic Book Resources has posted a five-page preview of Fatale #24, along with the other Image books released in the next two weeks.  The preview confirms both the recolored cover and the July 30th release date.  And the previewed interior pages use the stylistic art of stained glass or an illuminated manuscript to shed light on the story of the owl and the ribbon around the world and the ritual of the Consort, and it must be seen to be believed.

• First Interior Art, More Cover Artwork, and Retailer Promo for The Fade Out.  For Phillips, the "new project" of The Fade Out evidently began on June 30th, with a scene set at a "wild party," and over the month of July, his blog has featured a couple looks at panels in-progress.  He's trying his hand at digital inking while maintaining the look and feel of his "scruffy, analogue inks."

In consecutive days, Sean also posted the completed cover art for The Fade Out #3 and "cover detail" for another work in-progress.  For the former, the solicitation gives us a scheduled release date of October 29th.  With the latter, a close look at the title bar in the screenshot confirms that the troubled soldier will appear on the cover for issue #4.

On Twitter, both Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker provided a look at retail posters that should soon be appearing in stores promoting the new period-piece crime comic with a very simple description.

Fame. Sex. Death.  That's Entertainment.

The poster points to an August release for issue #1, and fans may want to ask their local shops for the poster once they're done with it.

• Preview for Velvet #6, Out This Week.  Tomorrow sees the release of the latest issue of Velvet, Brubaker's espionage comic with long-time collaborator Steve Epting.  Comicosity has a five-page preview.  

It's the beginning of a new arc, called "The Secret Lives of Dead Men," and Brubaker has tweeted that the cover art for these issues is meant to evoke "70s crime novels."

• Phillips' Void Preview, at SDCC and Out in September.  Sunday, Titan Comics announced that Sean Phillips' Void will be available exclusively at booth #5537 at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend.  I believe we missed the original press release in February, but Titan Comics is publishing a deluxe hardcover of this sci-fi  thriller, translated into English from a script by French writer Henrik Hanna with (top-billing) art by Phillips.

Phillips' blog has a few entries on the graphic novel, with several previews of pages in various stages of completion and a more complete look at the cover artwork.

In 2011, he described the project as his first sci-fi work, created for Delcourt in France, which is probably why we missed it:  the book was completed in June, 2012, and released that October, and we didn't realize that -- like Seven Psychopaths before it -- it would be translated into English.

The book tells the story of "the sole survivor of an interstellar prison ship," and Giant Freakin Robot has a feature on the book, with a four-page preview.  The book is scheduled to reach retailers in September.

• Brubaker Featured in Bendis' New Book on Writing.  I've noticed in online ads that Brian Michael Bendis has a new book out, on sale today:  Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels.   The book has "tips and insights from other working writers, artists, and editors provid[ing] a rare, extensive look behind the creative curtain of the comics industry."  

Between the index available online and the Amazon preview of the book, it's clear that Ed Brubaker is featured in an eight-page spotlight, in an interview Bendis conducted while Brubaker was working on Captain America.

• Brubaker Interviews.  Ed Brubaker has also made himself available for a number of online interviews in the last few weeks.  In a June 24th feature, Paste Magazine talks with Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Kieron Gillen, Jim Starlin, and others  about "the creator-owned comic book renaissance."  Brubaker mentions the difficulties in keeping Sleeper from being cancelled, the benefits of publishing work through Image Comics, and retailers' positive reaction to the influx of creator-owned work.

On July 1st, Wired posted an extensive interview with Brubaker about Velvet, upon the release of the first trade paperback collection.  He mentions inspirations for the story as wide-ranging as 40-year-old British television and his own family's history in intelligence, and he discusses how the main character's age and experience are integral to the story he's telling.

And just yesterday, the podcast 3 Chicks Review Comics posted their latest show, which features "a super long interview with the fantastic (and prolific) Ed Brubaker," on subjects ranging from Gotham Central and Captain America to Fatale, Velvet, and The Fade Out.

• Sean Phillips at Lakes International Comics Art Festival.  Phillips is attending the Comics Art Festival in Kendal, England, on October 17-19, returning as a featured creator.  His featured event is Divas and Fatales with fellow artist Rian Hughes.  

"In a special burlesque-inspired event, Sean and Rian draw a live model and demonstrate the art of creating a fully-formed character before your eyes."

Alex Valente has recently posted a Comics Art Festival poster focusing on this featured event.

• Fatale Reviews.  Over the last few weeks, we've also seen a few features on Fatale as the series draws to a close.  The AV Club made issue #23 its Big Issue for the week, late in June, drawing particular attention to the increasingly "trippy" artwork and to Nicolas' transition from obsession and infatuation to love and affection.

On July 2nd, Geekocracy kicked off a book club with a live streaming discussion of Fatale Book 1, "Death Chases Me."  They subsequently posted the 47-minute video of Masks & More #1.

And, just now, This Is Infamous posted an essay on the end of Fatale, speculating on its possible endings and examining the theme of inevitability in the book and the genre of noir which it encapsulates.

• Recommendations.  Especially through retweets, Ed Brubaker has recommended quite a few things worth reading, which we're reiterating here.
  • The National Post interviewed the "newly anointed queen of noir" Megan Abbott, who provided the introduction for the first deluxe volume of Fatale.
  • Open Culture lists film noir's five essential rules,  embedding an hour-long BBC documentary on the subject.  Abbott's introduction to the first deluxe hardcover argues that Fatale subverts the first rule -- "Choose a Dame with a Past and a Hero with No Future" -- by making Josephine much more than a femme fatale.
  • IDW has announced plans to publish the Italian comic-book adventures of Corto Maltese, a perennial best-seller in Europe which have never been comprehensively translated into English and collected for American readers.  The series will be released in 12 paperback volumes starting this December and subsequently in six hardcover volumes each collecting two trade editions.
  • Rick Remender is about to release another creator-owned sci-fi comic, Low, with artist Greg Tocchini.  Published by Image Comics, the futuristic story is about a mission sent from an undersea sanctuary to recover a probe that has landed on Earth's desolate surface.
For myself, I'm really looking forward to Tom Scioli's eccentric work on Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, having already read (and re-read) issue #0 given away on Free Comic Book Day.  Issue #1 is out tomorrow, and CBR has a five-page preview.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Criminal Element.

Fatale #18
released November 6, 2013
following a five-page preview

Fatale #18 was the eighth and final issue released in 2013, and it finds the amnesiac "Jane Doe" remembering her cursed life as Josephine, but not before releasing her power with deadly results, drawing both the Bishop and the serial killer Wulf.

Twice in this issue, the staid page layout also runs out of control, spilling into angular, two-page spreads.

When we first mentioned the preview for this issue, we noted that it began with "that common conundrum in crime stories: what to do with the body."  The series has all sorts of more mundane crime tropes, including crooked cops and organized crime, and it's worth noticing that this criminal element isn't always introduced by Josephine and her curse.

At the beginning of "The Devil's Business," Miles was working on a desperate (and rather pathetic) plan of scoring some drugs as entry into an exclusive Hollywood party, and at the beginning of this arc, "Pray for Rain," Lance had just committed his first bank robbery to finance his bankrupt band's music video. 

Jo might have caused the criminality to escalate, inducing a jealous Lance to commit a possibly murderous assault during their second robbery, but here she didn't corrupt perfect men.  They were corrupted long before she entered the picture.

Jo's power seemed almost to redeem the anti-hero Miles, who died before the curse took its toll.  In its upcoming final chapter, this arc reveals that her power drove Lance to madness.

Nicolas Lash wasn't evidently a criminal before meeting Jo, being wrongly accused of murder, then escaping custody with the man called Nelson, but he'll probably follow either Miles or Lance to one tragic end or another.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Metastasizing Monster.

Fatale #17
released September 25, 2013
following a five-page preview

With Fatale #17, we see the return of the story's monstrous antagonist, the Bishop.  His real name appears to be Sommerset, and I believe this is the first use of that name, which is mentioned again in issue #22; Hans, the name used in the 70's, may have just been an alias.

The Bishop's position as a Nazi officer was lost at the end of the war -- and after Booker rescued Jo from the first failed ritual -- but the Bishop's earthly power then grew as he became more physically disfigured from his encounters with Josephine.

He ran an obscure cult in the 1950's; running the Method Church in the 70's, he attracted a following in Hollywood and apparently had a run-in with Charles Manson; by the time we see him again in the mid-90's, he's flying a corporate jet with an interest in quite a few businesses, especially in entertainment.  At the same time, he had become "blind, partly crippled, and covered in burns."

Hunting Josephine across the decades, even sensing her presence when she wasn't in hiding, the Bishop had grown both more powerful and more grotesque, even as his quarry had herself become more knowledgeable of his occult secrets.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: Crosswords and Sudoku.

Fatale #16
released August 7, 2013
following a five-page preview

Fatale #16 was the second of two issues to feature cover art different from what was solicited.  The original cover featured Nicolas Lash, but he was replaced with Lance since Nicolas' present-day story wasn't continued in this issue.  Sean Phillips originally planned to reuse the art in another issue, and the advance cover at Amazon suggests that it may have been considered for the last trade paperback, but it will probably be printed nowhere except perhaps as part of the bonus features of a deluxe hardcover.

The issue continues the arc "Pray For Rain," and the issue reminds me of the different approaches to works of literature -- books, comic books, plays, and movies.  Some works are like crossword puzzles, where you need to bring a lot of information with you to make sense of what you have, and some works are like sudoku puzzles where all the information you need is presented to you.

I can understand needing annotations to understand Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales -- or an extensive dictionary to understand Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey novels, set in during the Napoleonic Wars and written to match the era -- but generally I prefer sudoku-like works, where at least the basic narrative and the character's motivations are explicit in the work itself, even if one must closely read (and re-read) the work to catch all the nuances.

It was fun to examine "The Last of the Innocent" to find analogues to the characters in Archie comics and other works, and it was good seeing Teeg Lawless again, but it wasn't necessary to have read Archie or indeed any of the other self-contained Criminal stories to follow the plot.  It sounds like Jess Nevins' annotations to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen heightens the enjoyment but isn't strictly necessary to read Alan Moore's books, and my biggest problem with Grant Morrison's Final Crisis was the apparent Ph.D in DC history one needed to get even the vaguest notion of what was going on.

Overall, Fatale appears to be quite self-contained:  the mysteries that can be answered, can be answered from clues in the story itself.

That doesn't mean there aren't allusions to other works and figures in history, and Fatale #16 has more than most other issues.

Set in Seattle, 1995, the issue alludes to the 1994 death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain; the movies of Ray Harryhausen, who used stop-motion effects to bring classic myths to life; the writer Carlos Castaneda, who focused on shamanism and sorcery; and the music of The Walker Brothers, from the 60's and 70's -- their song "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" can be heard here -- and Scott Walker, especially his acclaimed 1984 solo album Climate of Hunter.

The issue also lets us get to know the members of the rock band Amsterdam, without clunky exposition:  Lance, who has resorted to robbery to finance their next music video; Jon, the undersized and fearless guitarist; Tom, the withdrawn songwriter who dances the line between genius and madness; Darcy, his girlfriend; and Skip, the medical student.

Every one of them is deeply affected by Josephine -- "Jane Doe," as she calls herself in her state of amnesia -- and each is affected differently; only Darcy is immune, but she is resentful of the effect she has on the guys.  Each of these five-issue arcs shows Jo's influence on more than one man, and in this arc her power is overwhelming an entire house of bandmates as well as the serial killer Wulf and her friend Gavin.

About Gavin... on the next to last page of this issue, we discover that Jo and Gavin came to Seattle to find some rare occult books, sent by a mysterious "librarian" whom we won't meet for another five issues.

All the pieces of the puzzle are here; it's just not always easy to put them together.

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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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Thursday, July 17, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: 30 Striking Covers.

Sean Phillips' cover art has always been outstanding, but the design has never been as uniform as it has for Fatale:  a single mostly monochromatic image, bordered by white on all sides and the title placed at the top.  This artistic design has held true for everything except Darwyn Cooke's "ghost variant" for issue #15 and -- somewhat surprisingly -- the first deluxe hardcover collection.

There will have been 24 standard covers for the monthly issues, a variant cover for the debut issue, and five trade paperback collections: a total of 30 covers that are at least as beautiful together as they are individually.

For our readers, we're happy to present an extra-large, 3600 x 4500 a 1280 x 1600 montage of these 30 covers of Fatale, suitable for use as desktop wallpaper or for printing and framing.

UPDATE [7/18]: The extra-large 3600 x 4500 montage didn't upload, but we'll provide this larger image as soon as we can.

UPDATE 2 [7/18]:  I've confirmed that Blogger automatically resized the extra-large image to 1280 x 1600.  If any readers would really like this larger image, let me know in the comments.  If there's any real demand for the larger image, either in 5.5-MB JPEG format or the original 20-MB PNG format, I'll look into finding another way to get the file to you.

UPDATE 3 [7/20]:  We're happy to announce that we've made the 5.5-MB JPEG available on Google Drive, visible to the public.  Feel free to download here.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Convergence of 1943.

Fatale #14 features the story "Just a Glance Away," and it was released on May 15th, 2013, with a five-page preview. It completes the series of four stand-alone stories that comprise the third trade paperback, "West of Hell," stories that fill out some of the history of the curse and the cult that are the focus of this Lovecraftian horror-noir.

Just a month prior, the series was nominated for a stunning six Eisner awards, including Best New Series, Best Continuing Series, and individual awards for Brubaker, Phillips, and colorist Dave Stewart.  In July, the series was all but shut out, as Stewart won an Eisner while the other categories were dominated by Hawkeye and Saga.  Still, it's easy to see why the series received so many nominations, and this latest issue provides the fullest treatment of one of the key events in the story.

Set largely in Romania in 1943 -- the year of the Normandy invasion and a year before the two atomic bombs were dropped in Japan -- "Just a Glance Away" connects the dots from Jo's earliest story in issue #11 to "Death Chases Me," set in San Francisco in the 1950's.  We see Jo's first direct encounter with the Bishop, her realization that he has been hunting her for about a decade, and her meeting Walt Booker as he rescues her from the Bishop's ceremony.

(We'll revisit these events once more in issue #22, as we learn a few important details about the story from the Bishop's point of view.)

We see how Booker got the ancient stone knife and the fragment of parchment seen in the first arc, and how Jo met a gypsy woman named Mirela, who taught her the occult secrets that would serve to keep her safe for most of the next sixty years -- "symbols that would keep her hidden... words that would help her see the gears of the universe."

In the sixth panel on page 8, we also see an example of the other people who shared Jo's ability to see into the dark world beneath the surface, people like Booker and Mirela.  Reading some arcane book in front of a crammed bookshelf, wearing some familiar horn-rimmed glasses, the man may well be Otto the Librarian in his youth, introduced more fully in issue #21.

Perhaps the most important thing is confirmation that the Bishop's ceremony would result in a fate much worse than the Consort's merely physical death.   He told Josephine that death isn't exactly the right word for what happened to her predecessor, who we know is "Black" Bonnie from the previous issue.

"Devoured is more accurate."

The stakes couldn't be higher for Jo in the upcoming final issue, and since another "convergence" is approaching like the one that occurred on the night of the failed ceremony in Romania, we should not be surprised if issue #24 echoes issue #14 -- if each issue informs the other and reveals more about the ritual and the reason for which Josephine has been hunted for decades.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Pattern Set.

Fatale #13 was released on March 27th, 2013, along with a five-page preview, and it features "Down the Darkest Trail," the single-issue spaghetti western.

The story focuses on "Black" Bonnie, Josephine's immediate predecessor, and along with the Bishop's bald, inhuman servants (sans glasses and bowlers), we see a land-locked lighthouse that serves as the cult's church tower and beacon, and we see a grotesque, improvised compass:  one of the servant's eyes floating in a glass jar.

Beyond these elements of the bizarre, we see in the brief story covering Bonnie's life a pattern that echoes Jo's life as it has been documented throughout the series.

The woman's cursed life begins with her first death and the slow discovery of her new powers over men. She meets others who see and understand the shadow realm more than most people -- and she discovers that she is being hunted by monsters.  With help, she thinks she defeats the cult, and she acquires their unholy scripture.

Bonnie's third and final death was a fate worse than death, a sacrifice that led to the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 -- and to one young man's transformation into the most recent Bishop.

When Bonnie went to the grave, "the earth broke open and an entire city burned, and she finally understood the words written in that book."

We'll find out soon enough whether Josephine is able to break this pattern and write a different ending for herself.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Owl and The Ribbon Around the World.

Fatale #12 was released on February 13th, 2013, on the heels of a five-page preview, and it's the furthest back our story evidently takes us.  Set in France in AD 1286, "A Lovely Sort of Death" tells the story of Mathilda, one of Jo's predecessors.

Even Mathilda apparently wasn't the first "Consort," and the story shows the same cult from the 20th century, in a different guise:  "the order," noted for the yellow cross sewn into their tunics and led by another Bishop, a predecessor of the monster chasing Josephine.   Ganix was a "watchman" who fell for Mathilda and protected her instead of betraying her to the order.

Mathilda had been burned at the stake -- an understandable response from a town tormented by her curse -- but her powers caused her executioners to kill each other and kept her from dying.  In the "beatific afterglow" of the pain of death, she saw the world's secret paths "and the things that walked upon them," some of the most uncanny things Sean Phillips has ever drawn.

One of those demons or spirits bears a striking resemblance to an owl, and the owl is a recurring figure in this story.

One of the fairy tales that Ganix would tell Mathilda at night is about an owl "with the thread of the world in its claw."

In the interlude that opens issue #3, Nicolas has been reading Hank's unpublished manuscript, "The Losing Side of Eternity."
...there had to be a reason the old man never let anyone see it.
But the only part that makes me think of Jo at all is a scene where an old woman tells a drunken Graves a bizarre fairy tale.
About a silk ribbon that's wound around the world every night, held in the beak of an owl.
At least I think it's an owl, from the description.
In the interlude for issue #8, Nicolas dreams about that owl, shown with a strangely human face, and he sees that same owl toward the very end of issue #23, before the cliffhanger ending.

Is this weird spectre that Mathilda sees in the woods that same owl-like creature?  Is there a deeper meaning to this owl with the thread of the world, or is it just a striking image that Brubaker evokes for this story?  And if there is a deeper meaning, will we discover it in the Fatale finale, or will Ed Brubaker keep it to himself?

The possibility of answers is another reason I'm anticipating issue #24.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Missing Scene.

Fatale #11 kicked off 2013, being released on January 2nd alongside a five-page preview and the trade paperback for "Book 2: The Devil's Business."  This issue was the first of four self-contained flashback stories, together comprising book 3, "West of Hell," the title being perhaps an allusion to the phrase "East of Eden," from Genesis 4:16 and the inspiration of Steinbeck novel by the same name.

This isn't the first time that Brubaker and Phillips' third arc in a series contained stand-alone flashbacks:  Criminal did the same, with interlocking stories collected in the third trade collection, "The Dead and the Dying."  Earlier this year, Brubaker relayed that there are currently no plans to continue Incognito, but if he changes his mind, there would be worse ways to return than with single-issue flashback stories, perhaps focusing on the original pulp heroes in that universe.  The tension would build as the reader waits to discover what happened to  the main character in the present day; as with Fatale, this protagonist was last left in custody.

In this month-long review of this cosmic horror-noir, I've already mentioned issue #11 a couple of times:  "The Case of Alfred Ravenscroft" marks the earliest story we see for Josephine, perhaps just more than a year after her first death and her curse of immortality and power over men.  In the very first entry, I noted that the focus of the series' three-page trailer may be a considered a "deleted scene" from what would become this issue:  namely, the Bishop's interrogation of the police officer Nelson in 1936.

We're republishing the trailer below, and we would like to draw particular attention to the very first image, an eerie barn at night, flanked by two cars from the Thirties.

This image appears in the inside front cover of literally every issue of Fatale, with new coloration to match the rest of the issue.  I don't think the building makes an appearance anywhere else in the series, and I would be surprised to find it in the final issue.

Taking the trailer as a canonical part of the larger story, the barn is very significant to the story, as the scene of Nelson's interrogation.  We find out in issue #14 that this is where the Bishop first learns of Josephine.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: Plans Change.

I believe that, whether published by Marvel's Icon imprint or published by Image (as is now the case), Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' creator-owned work involves very few people:  just the two of them and a colorist, with Brubaker acting as the editor.   The lack of a large editorial organization probably results in a few more errors slipping through than would otherwise be the case: I believe the character Grey/Gray wasn't spelled consistently in "Lawless," and I really wish that the deluxe editions didn't have the occasional minor printing error.

On the other hand, the comic is also a little more "alive" for lacking that tiny bit of polish:  the greatest R&B records emphasize soul over perfect production values.

With the conclusion of the second arc, "The Devil's Business," Fatale shows that there was the occasional change of plan.

  • The cover art for issue #6 -- and again for issue #16, as we mentioned before and republish below -- changed between the solicitation and the publication.   A high-detail image of the original cover's artwork can still be seen at Sean's blog, but in the writer's page at the end of issue #5, Ed explained that the cover had changed "because I'm a slave-driver and I made Sean re-do it."  I think both covers are good, but I think the new cover is a bit more effective in setting a mood.
  • This arc appears to be the jumping-off point for the new stories that Ed didn't originally intend in the 12-15 issue run for the series.  Going by the three-page trailer for the series, I believe the original idea was just to cover the 50's, the 70's, and the present day.
  • Issue #6 is the last time that the inside front cover relays the title for the story arc -- "Book Two: The Devil's Business" -- and Issue #10 is the last time Ed attempts to use the inside front cover to summarize the previous issues, the story clearly becoming too sprawling for easy encapsulation.
In interviews, Ed Brubaker has revealed that he usually knows how a story ends but allows for flexibility in how he gets there:  a four-issue arc can suddenly become a five-issue arc, and this is probably the reason why the next series, The Fade Out, isn't being publicized as having a particular number of issues.

In the less skilled hands, this sort of improvisation would be very risky indeed.  As it is, it's thrilling to discover the latest chapter in their serialized work, almost as Ed and Sean are working out the final details for themselves. 

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Friday, July 11, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: Tragic Heroes.

"Year One" of Brubaker and Phillips' Fatale -- and the conclusion of the second arc, "The Devil's Business" -- both conclude with issue #10, released on November 28th, 2012, following a five-page preview.

The series continued to ramp up the body count: almost no one with a speaking role survives this arc.   An earlier issue mentions Miles' inability to swim, and that fact leads to deadly results here, as Checkov's gun fires again.  And Jo uses her powers to survive the attack by the Method Church, and the Bishop is maimed again as he was at the end of the last arc:  he'll remain blinded and scarred for the rest of the series.

Another familiar chord is struck in this story.  Just like Booker, Miles became a hero, dying while helping Josephine.  The newspapers report on both men's heroism, and Miles became in death the celebrity he never was in life.

That's what matters, not whether we survive some harrowing event, but whether we act heroically even in death.  I fear for Nicolas' safety as this series concludes in just a few weeks, but we can hope that he ends up a hero whose actions matter.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: Coincidence and Fate.

"I believe in coincidences.  Coincidences happen every day. But I don't trust coincidences."
- plain, simple Garak, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Fatale #9 was released on Halloween, 2012, with a six-page preview, and this penultimate chapter to "The Devil's Business" reintroduces the business of coincidence.

Toward the end of issue #6, we read that Jo had lived long enough to know that, "in her life, there were no coincidences."  It wasn't mere chance that caused Miles to stumble onto her property with that film reel.

In this issue, the Bishop lost one opportunity to track down Josephine with Suzy's murder.  He begs forgiveness from his dark gods, and he asks for them for another chance, asking them to "make the world turn his way."  The issue ends with his plea being juxtaposed against a chance encounter at a lavish party held at the home of the sadistic Gavin Wilder.  There, the Bishop's follower Derek notices Suzy's friend Miles, and he tracks Miles and Jo back to her home and the scene of the next issue's deadly climax.

This supernatural superintendence of events makes sense in the world of Fatale, not only for having a cause in the dark forces behind the scenes but also for having a narrative purpose.  This hand of fate keeps the plot moving and it heightens the sense of helplessness found in both noir and cosmic horror.

Still, I'm not a big fan of coincidences occurring at least in modern fiction, and I honestly think even the classic Watchmen suffered for having a few key coincidences:  the Comedian's actions that led to his end, Rorschach's stumbling onto his murder, and Dr. Manhattan's too-timely reappearance in the plot.  At least the first two could have been driven by character rather than chance.

I'm glad that Brubaker and Phillips' more naturalistic works like Criminal tend to be finely tuned machines that need no such contrivances, but Fatale has been enjoyable enough to encourage me to go with it in this case, and I suspect that Brubaker has a couple surprises up his sleeve for the grand finale. 

It's possible that at least one or two apparent coincidences aren't what they seem.

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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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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: A Closer Look at the Cult.

Fatale #7 was released on August 15th, 2012, on the heels of a six-page preview, and it continues the story set in the hedonistic Hollywood in the late 1970's.  The film Jo found with Miles documented some twisted ritual involving Miles' friend Suzy -- another bit of the horror that is only suggested and not shown -- and Jo wants to get her hands on the book they used prior to the ritual's sacrifice.

Jo wants to learn more about the cult and the dark forces that made her what she is, and in the course of this issue, we learn a few things ourselves.

First, I believe the series never actually uses the word "fatale" (for the literary archetype of the femme fatale), but here we finally learn the term the cult has for Jo and presumably her predecessors -- a term that I believe is used once and only once.

On the very last page, one of the Bishop's inhuman servants refers to Jo as "the Consort," which can mean a spouse, especially the spouse of a reigning monarch.  I'm guessing that she has a role in a perversion of a wedding ceremony, either the ritual that gave her the curse of immortality and power over men or the ritual that the Bishop has planned for Jo, resulting in a fate worse than death.

The Bishop was reincarnated at the end of "Death Chases Me," and he is now known as Hansel.  He is a charismatic, messianic figure -- really, an antichrist who is evidently more formidable even than Charles Manson -- and he leads the cult now known as the Method Church, a group that seems more out in the open than the red-robed group in 1950's San Francisco.

His followers include his inhuman servants, all uniformly bald and bespectacled, though each with their own name.  They met with Booker in Chinatown and have been hounding Nicolas in the present day.  Jo had wrongly assumed that they all perished in the earthquake at the end of the last arc.

But his followers also include human disciples, including Derek, who talks with Miles about where to find Suzy, and Stane, whom Suzy murdered in the previous issue.  The series goes to great lengths establishing the supernatural effect that Jo has on men, but in re-reading this issue, I notice that there doesn't appear to be a similar influence at work in the Bishop's human followers.

It's at least possible that these men are following the Bishop and his dark gods completely of their own free will, and, even in an imaginative horror story, that sort of willing submission to evil has the ring of truth.

Man's willingness to serve evil with eyes wide open is one of the most horrific suggestions in Fatale.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: Unhealthy Obsessions.

While almost every scene in Fatale #2 involved betrayal, Fatale #6 appears to focus on unhealthy obsessions -- I mean, besides spending an entire month writing daily essays about a single comic book series.  The issue kicks off the second arc, "The Devil's Business," and it was released on June 27th, along with a five-page preview and the trade paperback collection of the first arc, "Book One: Death Chases Me."

The most obvious obsessions are about Josephine, perhaps not entirely because of her curse.  The issue spends just two-thirds of a page on Alan Marshal; as Jo recounts in her journal, he was a recovering alcoholic whom Jo used to help Hank in his writing career, and he ended up losing his self-control, his job, and ultimately his life.

The obsession that the series spends the most time examining is that of Nicolas Lash.  At this point in the present-day narrative, he had spent a year searching for Josephine after their one nearly deadly encounter.  We don't learn much about his life outside of this obsession -- his career, his friends, or his interests -- and I believe the only flashback on his life will be in issue #8, where we see his nearly forgotten first encounter with Jo when he was about six years old.

The clearest hint at the life he's abandoning is on the first page of this issue:  the poignant scene of voicemail messages heard but never answered.

Josephine has her own obsession, at least at this point in her life, in the flashback set in Los Angeles in the summer of 1978:  she is trying to run from life itself.  Where she had earlier found a temporary kind of safety as Walt Booker's kept woman, she is now seeking safety isolating herself from all men, becoming "the wrong Hollywood cliche" of a recluse.

And I notice that not every unhealthy obsession in this issue involves Jo's supernatural powers.  The story in the 1970's begins with the struggling actor Miles trying to score some cocaine so he can get into a party of A-listers, where he would "stumble" on his one good movie being played on the late show and thereby revive his languishing career.

His plan was pathetic, and his night would have probably ended badly even if it hadn't taken a turn for the bloody and bizarre.  

Fatale doesn't lecture, but all four cases of obsession's bitter fruit warns the reader about where his appetites and ambitions might lead.

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Sunday, July 06, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: 13 Reasons to Buy the Single Issues.

Just more than half of Fatale's 24 issues will have an essay in the back as an extra feature not found in the trade paperback collections.  

If it hasn't felt as if there were that many essays in the latest series, the essays were front-loaded a bit:  seven of the first eight issues had an essay, while only three of the last eight will include an essay.  In issue #5, the comic spilled far past the standard 24 pages to 27, leaving only one interior page for Ed Brubaker's note to his readers; issues #8 and #23 had reader letters, and issue #16 printed the four-page "trailer" for Velvet, Brubaker's new collaboration with Steve Epting.  For other issues, Brubaker relayed that they didn't want to cause further delays by including the extra essay.

The final Fatale is an extra-length issue at 48 pages, and Brubaker has told A Criminal Blog that the issue will include 34 pages of story, which will leave plenty of room for extras.  One of those extras will be an essay by Jess Nevins, and Sean Phillips has posted two images of original artwork that will accompany the essay.

From November, 2011, to June, 2012, Sean Phillips contributed to a group blog called What Not, featuring assorted artwork from "a varied group of artists," including Cliff Chiang, Mark Chiarello, and Phil Noto.  It's an interesting blog to browse, and for one entry on the theme of authors, Phillips posted the gorgeous art for the first arc's essays, which are also worth another look.

Together the thirteen essays comprise a very strong reason to collect the single issues of Fatale, and we're happy to list them here for readers' reference and (we hope) for their eventual inclusion in a page on Wikipedia.

  1. H.P. Lovecraft and the Horror of the Unseen, by Jess Nevins, in issue #1
  2. Edgar Allan Poe: Reality as a Grotesque Deception, by Jess Nevins, in  issue #2
  3. Dan J. Marlowe: Echoes of a Hard-Boiled Past, by Charles Kelly, in issue #3
  4. The Real Philip Marlowe, by Stephen Blackmoore, in issue #4
  5. Horror and Mystery Fiction Part 1: Ontranto to de Grandin, by Jess Nevins, in issue #6
  6. Horror and Mystery Fiction, Part 2: The Weird Menace Pulps, by Jess Nevins, in issue #7
  7. The Devil Inside Me: Devil Pulp, by Jess Nevins, in issue #10
  8. The Lonely Doll, by Megan Abbott, in issue #12
  9. Strange Stories, by Jack Pendarvis, in issue #13
  10. Aleister Crowley, by Jess Nevins, in issue #15
  11. Cthulu Lives! On the Afterlife of H.P. Lovecraft, by Jess Nevins, in issue #18
  12. Cults in Fiction, by Jess Nevins, in issue #21
  13. Leaping the Fence: Fallen Heroes and Redeemed Villains, by Jess Nevins, in issue #24 

They make great reading, at they put Brubaker and Phillips' horror noir in its larger literary context.

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Saturday, July 05, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: Fathers and Sons.

The first arc, "Death Chases Me," reaches its violent and disturbing conclusion with Fatale #5, published on May 9th, 2012, after the release of a five-page preview. 

I believe this issue makes the first allusion to the Great San Francisco Earthquake of May 18th, 1906.  In the real world, the earthquake and the resulting fire probably resulted in 2,000 to 3,000 deaths.  In the world of Fatale, the cataclysm was the result of a key event that's referenced again in issue #13 and issue #22:  the sacrifice of Jo's predecessor Bonnie and the rebirth of a human named Sommerset into the inhuman Bishop.

The Bishop returns to the subterranean scene of that crime, evidently expecting to sacrifice Hank and Jo after Booker has brought the immortal woman to him.  Things don't go as planned, and the Bishop is permanently blinded, seemingly killed, and reborn in a new host body.

Brubaker and Phillips don't just obscure the worst brutality, as we discussed last time; they are often subtle in conveying key plot points.  I particularly remember a cliffhanger ending in "Coward," where I wondered if Leo had taken the stash with him.  He had, but that fact was never mentioned outright in narration or dialogue, only shown as without fanfare as Leo left his hideout to try to make things right with the crooked cop that set him up.

Here, I think we're left to wonder, was it never Booker's real plan to betray Jo into the Bishop's clutches?  My guess is that Walt Booker really intended to sacrifice Jo for a cure to his cancer, but he had a change of heart when she confronted him in the police station and he broke down in grief, near the midpoint of issue #4.

And where did the child come from, which the Bishop possessed in the grotesque ritual of reincarnation?  We can deduce the infant's origins from a single line from one of the cultists.

"It's been over a week since he cut it out of the woman."

Bishop was reborn in the infant son of Hank Raines:  the police had mistakenly concluded that the child died with his mother.

In the next arc, "The Devil's Business," we find out that, in the 70's, Jo had had a son, and in the penultimate issue, #23, we discover along with Nicolas that she had this son with Hank.

In much of Brubaker and Phillips' work, especially Criminal and Scene of the Crime, families are crucial and sins reverberate through the generations.  In Fatale, there is a long line of women like Jo, and their powers torment generations of men.

For Dominic "Hank" Raines, the generational drama hits much closer to home.

Unbeknownst to Hank, his infant son through his wife Sylvia becomes the new host for the Bishop.  Tension over his son with Jo ends their relationship, and Willie's violent, oedipal reaction to his mother's powers and his subsequent suicide is the great tragedy of her life.  And his godson Nicolas -- the son of his friend, the now-mad photographer Johnny Lash -- plays a central role in the story's conclusion.

This epic tale matches Sleeper in length and, in its scope, it surpasses all of Brubaker and Phillips' previous work.  It's a Lovecraftian horror-noir, but it has revealed itself to be much more than that.

For Jo, Hank, Walt, Nicolas, and quite a few other characters, the story is a deeply moving tragedy, made more moving with Sean Phillips' moody art.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Unseen Horrors

Fatale #4 was released on April 4th, 2012, alongside the final second printing for the series -- for issue #3 -- and on the heels of a five-page preview.  The body count continued to mount as the Bishop drew closer to finding Jo, but Brubaker and Phillips showed remarkable restraint in hiding the worst of his monstrous acts.

Modern comic books have a reputation for sensationalism and glorifying brutal violence, albeit with the tongue often planted firmly in cheek, but Brubaker and Phillips' work stands apart.  Criminal's first arc, "Coward," was as brutal as any Sin City story, but I believe it was more effective in its humanizing the victims rather than emphasizing the viscera.

The writer's rule is "show, don't tell," but that rule doesn't apply in horror -- or in classics like Jaws, when the deadly great white was obscured as long as possible.  The imagination can often do a much better job at feeding one's fear, and it's not just Sean Phillips' art that benefits from things being so often hidden in the shadows.

Over the course of issues #2, #3, and #4, the Bishop murdered Hank's wife Sylvia, and Hank was arrested and questioned about her death and the grotesque manner in which she was killed.  In just those three issues, we saw plenty of violence -- one man's throat and half of another man's head eaten away, Jo commanding a cultist to shoot himself in the head, a gruesome truck of corpses that only young Walt could see, and Walt's partner Lannie being stabbed repeatedly -- but we saw neither the Bishop's murder of Sylvia nor the crime scene afterwards.

The murder was merely described, and even then we don't read the description as much as see people's reactions:  a newspaper account made Dominic run in terror a half-century later, and the crime-scene photos and the police account made Hank scream uncontrollably.

For all that we see in this arc, it's what we don't see that's most haunting, an unseen horror that is more effective because we only approach its obscene reality in the most indirect way.

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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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