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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