Fatale, Book 3

Fatale 3Summary: The third arc of the hit series hits stands the same day as the next one begins! From the dark days of the depression, to the middle ages and the old west, these tales of horror and myth and the mystery of the Femme Fatale reveal secrets even our heroine doesn’t know about yet. Bold and experimental, this is pulp noir horror at it’s finest. Collects FATALE #11-14

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Fatale, Book 3, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips 7.5

I already had reservations by the time I read the last ‘Fatale‘ book, but my impression has been solidified: Brubaker’s not entirely sure where to take this series. With Book 3, instead of furthering our lead character Josephine’s story, he decided to explore her back story – for most of the set.

And even that didn’t serve to illuminate what is a pretty murky mystery thus far: we now know that there have been other women like her before, we still don’t why they exist, we don’t really know in which way they’re all inter-connected, and we don’t know why that matters to Josephine in the present.

All we know is that she has some inexplicable power over men and that some ominous figures are trying to get their hands on her. Who they are and what their ultimate aim might be, we still don’t know. And that’s AFTER a full book of back story! Which leads me to conclude that Brubaker is treading water.

He does it well, though: at no point was I bored, at no point was I disinterested in the proceedings. If anything, even though he seems to lack direction and/or inspiration, he’s proven yet again just how terrific a writer he is: even while coasting, even as he leaves the plot somewhat hollow, he can deliver a compelling book.

The problem is that he flirts with redundancy: by not tying the pieces together more clearly, he’s rendering large chunks of his ‘Fatale’ unnecessary – you can easily reduce it to a fraction of the overall work thus far and still gather what it’s about. It would be a cinch to make a comprehensive highlights compilation.

Thankfully, Phillips is back on top of his game. His work isn’t going to win any awards for the richness of its detail, its accuracy or finesse, but it’s perfectly-suited to this supernatural noir story. And the few lapses that I found in the last book were nowhere to be found here. Phillips and Brubaker remain a perfect partnership.

But I can’t say that I am fully satisfied with the direction that ‘Fatale’ is going in (or lack thereof). Although I understand that Josephine herself doesn’t understand everything, given how long she’s lived it would be nice for Brubaker to give his readers a bone. Or two. Hunger pangs don’t just go away with mere scraps.

If the next book isn’t more substantial, there’s a good chance that I might refocus my attention elsewhere, where my patience and devotion are rewarded.

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