Tuesday, July 01, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: Every Blessing is a Curse

All this month, we're counting down to the Fatale finale, which appears to be on-schedule to reach stores on July 30th.  We'll take a closer look at each of the first 23 issues, each of the series' five story arcs, and a little bit more.

We begin with the beginning.

Fatale was announced in October, 2011, first in the back pages concluding the most recent Criminal arc -- the spectacular "Last of the Innocent" -- and then officially at the New York Comic Con.

The Comic Con announcement came with a humorous 70-second video that's still available at iFanboy.  And, in what has become common with Brubaker's creator-owned titles, we were treated to a three-page "trailer" for the new series. 

The series was originally planned for a 12-issue run that "might get bigger," and it did grow, into a kind of ongoing series that is reaching its natural conclusion after doubling in length.  The trailer shows us hints of what was in Brubaker's original plotting of the story.  We see the Seventies setting for "The Devil's Business," captioned as 1979 when the actual story would take place in 1978, and the focus of the trailer may be considered a "deleted scene" from what would become issue #11:  Bishop's interrogation of the police officer Nelson in 1936.

Both the video and the trailer featured a tagline that is worth remembering despite not becoming prominent in the series' promotion:  "Every blessing is a curse."

Jo's immortality and power over men, Walter's insight into the darker world hiding in the shadows, and Nicolas' relationship with Jo:  beginning with the first arc, we would see this double-edged sword of blessings and curses time and again.

Fatale #1 was released on January 4th, 2012, with a seven-page preview and two different covers, with Bleeding Cool reporting that the "Beast" variant cover was about half as common as the "Beauty" cover. We reported that USA Today had an online feature on the book, and the book was an immediate sell-out, requiring the first additional printing for Brubaker and Phillips in exactly three years, following the debut of Incognito.

This first issue would go on to have an astounding five printings in the first five months of the year, each cover a modification of one of the two original covers.  In December, the issue would be reprinted once more, a one-dollar comic as part of the "Image Firsts" campaign.

This issue marks the first creator-owned work for Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips at Image, and before the series' end, Image had announced an unprecedented five-year deal of complete artistic freedom.


The issue introduces us to the world of Fatale, neither naturalistic like Criminal and Scene of the Crime, nor a super-powered universe like Sleeper or the pulp comic Incognito.  The world is supernatural, mysterious, and above all foreboding.

Though it would not become completely clear until later, this first issue provides all the major elements of the story.

  • Jo, the immortal and powerful femme fatale
  • Bishop the monster, his followers, and their grisly occult rituals
  • the pattern of doomed men falling for Jo, one after the other:  Walter Booker, the WWII vet and crooked cop; Hank Raines, the reporter and writer; and Nicolas Lash his godson
  • the damage that Jo causes to the men in her life, made quite explicit with Nicolas' disfigurement
  • the importance of arcane knowledge, beginning with Hank's unpublished manuscript for "The Losing Side of Eternity."
We see Nicolas thinking about the loss of his leg as he begins to read Hank's manuscript, and his thoughts about his future phantom pains sets the stage for the entire series.

"The pain will come later, though."

"I'm sure of that."

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