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.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Unknown said...

I enjoyed the ending as well and did not see it coming.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had to reread the comic again to get it to really sink in. Will you be publishing a follow up post analyzing the events in the final issue? I hope you do. I kind of anticipated that if she survived, she would become mortal. I suppose the ending makes sense considering how long she has lived.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will you be publishing a follow up post analyzing what happened in the ending? I hope you do! Reading your posts on fatale has been very enjoyable.

11:56 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Thanks, MC! I'll probably post one more essay about the finale, maybe early next week.

In the meantime and since spoilers are coming up in the comment thread, you allude to what I actually did anticipate: IF Jo's curse was lifted, my guess was that she would age very suddenly -- and the "one year later" epilogue means we're looking at sometime in 2015, when Jo is about 102 years old!

What I did NOT expect is that the curse would be lifted.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have some questions, and I wonder if by any chance you knew the answer or have your own theory about it:

1) how do they choose their "consort"?

2) i forget which issue it is, but the bum in Fresno told Josephine that they "made her perfect". Does this mean they gave her a makeover from her original self? It seems as if the consorts are made, not born but I get confused.

3) the fairy tale in the beginning of issue 24, are all the dead knights an allegory for the trail of dead men the consorts leave in their wake before they are sacrificed?

4) if Otto is Milkfed's grandson, does this mean that Bonnie had children with Milkfed?

5) When the bishop says Josephine cursed his eyes, should we take it to mean that she cursed him with empathy?

in any case i can't wait until your final analysis post.


1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, just wanted to check in to see if you are still doing a follow up post for the final issue.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

I am, I just had much less time this week than I anticipated: I'll try to wrap up my thoughts on Fatale next week as we transition to The Fade Out -- and I'm still mulling your questions, too.

Thank you for your patience: posting those 30 days in a row was fun but exhausting. :)

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know, i was thinking back to the opening fable in issue 24, where the knight asks the king why he won't just let the dragons sleep. Looking back, i think this implies that the "sacrifices" are a choice rather than an inevitable occurrence, which I think provides the opening for Jo to potentially end it and break the cycle. I don't know if this is what the writer and creator intended, but I guess when you have hindsight you have the luxury of twisting already ocoured events to fit a theory. just a thought.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

It looks like I actually don't have much more to say right now on Fatale, especially given my real-world time constraints, but...

MC, I think a lot of questions have gone unanswered, including how the consorts are chosen. We don't ever find out much about the women's lives prior to their being cursed, but going by Jo's memories of going to the party in Fresno, clearly she wasn't created by that ritual, only cursed -- and the curse could evidently be lifted.

From the demented bum's point of view, Jo was made perfectly desirable, but clearly she still had flaws and plenty of tragedy in her life.

It didn't occur to me, but I think you MUST be right, that Milkfed and Bonnie had a child, since he was with her up to his death, a year prior to the great earthquake. If they didn't have a daughter, they presumably tattooed their son to inoculate him from the curse, and either way they taught their child all that they knew. The child passed on that knowledge to his or her son, Otto the librarian.

I'm not sure if Jo cursed the Bishop's eyes with empathy: it might have just been the sort of desire that normal human men had for her, which overrode his free will and opened him up to being tormented by all the pain that Jo kept within herself. It sounds something like what she did to "Nelson" and to Johnny Lash before him.

That fairy tale, I think it might actually point to an event that occurred in that world's distant past, and I think you may be right about a parallelism to the trail of dead men and about the human choice to wake the demons they feed through their sacrifices.

The thing is, Hank told young Nicolas the story to convey the fatalism of the idea that the dragon cannot be killed, and he was wrong, AT LEAST about the Bishop if not the dark creatures he served.

A short post about Fatale is going up shortly, but THANK YOU for your comments: it's been enlightening to compare notes with another fan, and if you have some other thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

9:06 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts