Summary: The second arc of Image’s new hit collected just in time for new readers to jump on board with issue 11! In 1970s Los Angeles, Josephine can’t hide from the forces of Hollywood, Satanic Cults and creepy 16mm films collected by wealthy deviants. And when a struggling actor and his wounded friend cross her path, all hell will break loose, leaving ripples that echo all the way to modern time, where Nicolas Lash falls deeper into Josephine’s spell. ED BRUBAKER and SEAN PHILLIPS’ best-selling series just gets hotter! Collects FATALE 6 – 10
Fatale, Book 2, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips 7.5
I was totally taken by surprise by this second collection of Fatale books. I guess I didn’t realize it in the first one, but apparently Josephine (our titular femme fatale) is the main character of the series; I merely thought that she was important player, a catalyst even, but figured that the story was about the people she influenced, not her.
Even the beginning of this set suggested as much: we begin with a prologue that re-introduces us to Nicolas Lash, the lead (or so I thought) of the previous six books. In it we are given a quick reminder of his obsession for Josephine and how he’s tried to remain off the radar ever since meeting her, trying to save himself from the “strange men”.
But then it turns to another male character, Miles, a washed-out actor who’s trying to score some dope. Soon he finds himself entangled with Josephine and she basically takes over the book; from that point onward, we follow her quest to track down the makers of an underground 16mm reel that he stole, a film that shows a ritualistic murder not unfamiliar to her…
Although a lot of time is spent with Miles, the central force of ‘Fatale, Book 2’ is Josephine’s introspection, as she examines and re-examines her life. Up until that point, she had been trying to lead a tranquil existence, away from prying eyes and, most notably, far away enough that her powers wouldn’t have influence.
With Mile’s appearance, she is beginning to realize that she may not be able to do this.
One of the things that I didn’t enjoy was that she seemed different in this book: while she seemed mysterious and amoral in the first one, she is much more sympathetic here, like someone who is plagued by her power, not someone who revels in it. I’m not sure that I like the change: in showing us her heart, she has been over-humanized.
Of course, I thought her the villain of the piece. Perhaps she’s not, after all. Or perhaps this just a mistake by Brubaker. Either way, the change in tone didn’t sit well with me. I would have preferred her to be more on the fringe, with our story being about someone else. I would have preferred her to remain cryptic.
I got the impression that Brubaker was treading water a little bit here, truth be told. As much of a fan as I’ve become, the resurgence of cults as a plot point seemed all-too-familiar, perhaps even clichéd given that I just read it in another of this books. It’s bad enough that he mostly explores crime from a criminal’s standpoint, but there has got to be other elements that he can use.
I also found Phillips slightly off his game here. For the first time since I’ve explored their partnership, Phillips’ storytelling isn’t always neat and clear – at least, as much as it usually is. For the most part, it’s as gritty and enjoyable as ever, but towards the end there are a couple of pages that didn’t seem entirely well-conceived. Maybe it’s just me.
In the end, although ‘Fatale, Book 2’ is a very good story, it didn’t meet my expectations. Perhaps the bar has been raised too high by Brubaker and Phillips over the course of their many collaborations, or maybe I’m just not getting what they’re trying to accomplish here. Either way, it’s a solid, entertaining book, but it’s not something I’ll want to revisit frequently.