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Fatale vol 2: The Devil's Business

Fatale vol 2: The Devil's Business back

Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

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Page 45 Review by Stephen

“It’s only after Claudia leaves and Miles realises that he feels sorry for her that he has a moment of clarity about how much he’s changed in the past week.
“He hasn’t used anything but pot since he first slept with Josephine. And he hasn’t even missed it. No cravings… nothing.
“Like she was all the drugs he needed.”

From the creators responsible for CRIMINAL, the best crime on the market, this too is noir but with a Lovecraftian twist, and the lure of a guilt-ridden femme fatale.

Los Angeles 1978, a dozen years on from FATALE VOL 1, and Josephine still hasn’t aged a day. Holed up in her luxury villa, she has – she realises – become that Hollywood cliché, “the strange old lady who stays indoors and watches old movies every night on TV. Except she doesn’t look old. She just feels it.” Everything she needs is fetched by Miss Jansen while her devoted gardener Jorge watches on from afar. Other than that she has successfully avoided the company of men. Given her history, it’s... safer that way.

Tonight she is watching the only decent film that failed movie star Miles ever acted in before being relegated to a life of B-movies, speedballs and subsequent self-loathing. And tonight is the night that Miles clambers over her walls with a wounded and bloody Suzy Scream in tow, clutching a reel of film. What they have witnessed is abhorrent; what’s on the film is worse. What Josephine knows is that in her life – of all lives – there is no such thing as coincidence so she takes the fugitives in. That’s when she holds strips of the film to the light and spies the prize that eluded her for years: a specific book being read by an acolyte of the Method Church before its ritual sacrifice. And as with all things, I’m afraid, Josephine simply cannot help herself – and subsequently neither can Miles.

Self-awareness is key to this series’ success: its protagonists retain just enough self-knowledge to realise that their self-guidance is fucked whilst being unable to alter course. Clearly we’re in for a multiple pile-up and you cannot help screaming, “Nooooo!”

Indeed, Brubaker and Phillips have concocted something uncanny in that its theme of compulsion is mirrored by its effect: FATALE is as addictive to its audience as Josephine is to those caught within her gravitational pull.

And yes, there’s plenty more on Nicolas Lash who’s succumbed to her charms in the present, desperately chasing her ghost and about to experience one hell of a flashback in a childhood memory which has somehow been blocked until now. Oh, but that’s clever – dovetails beautifully.

Also smart is Phillips’ art, whose rigorous self-discipline means his storytelling is instantly accessible (i.e. legible) even to those new to comics. You won’t notice this (which is part of the point) but each page is clearly tiered, with the lettering arranged at the top of each tier so that one’s eyes move swiftly from left to right rather than straying perilously down a row way too early. Oh, you won’t believe how many veterans now break that basic rule, rendering their books a real struggle for newcomers.

Sean Phillips’ male faces all have that lived-in look: slightly battered both by the years and what life has thrown at them. Interestingly (I’ve not seen this mentioned elsewhere), although most of the male faces in FATALE are as semi-shrouded in shadow as they are in CRIMINAL, Josephine’s isn’t, even at night. Makes her seem… slightly ethereal – not quite of the world around her. I like that.

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