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Fatale vol 4: Pray For Rain

Fatale vol 4: Pray For Rain Fatale vol 4: Pray For Rain

Fatale vol 4: Pray For Rain back

Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips


Page 45 Review by Stephen

“She makes love to him one last time, and he knows it’s out of pity…
“But he doesn’t care, this is all he has left.”

Closer now, closer: this is the penultimate volume. You wait until Jo starts dancing. You’ll wish it would last forever…

The present:

Do you remember Nicolas Lash from the very first page of FATALE? He was burying his godfather, author Dominic Raines, and that was where he met Josephine: in a graveyard. Even now, after all that he has lost including a leg and his freedom, he can’t get her out of his head.

Later that night he went through his godfather’s effects and found an unpublished manuscript called ‘The Losing Side Of Eternity’. He read it obsessively, over and over again, hoping it would give him a clue as to how to trace Jo. Now he has lost that too. It was stolen and has since been published with some bits curiously missing. The publisher claims that they bought the manuscript from Nicolas himself, and now he’s due to face trial for murder. If he thought things couldn’t get any worse, he was wrong. His solicitor is slaughtered by a ragged, raving lunatic who calls himself Nelson, just to spring Nicolas from custody. He claims Jo sent him. Did she?

Seattle, 1995:

It’s been a long time since grunge band Amsterdam had their only hit single, ‘Flow My Tears’. They’re still together; they’re even living together in a neo-gothic house outside of Seattle along with Darcy, girlfriend of guitarist and songwriter Tom. The problem is that Tom is no longer writing – at least, he’s no longer writing songs. He’s out of his head on acid. The others haven’t given up, though. Lead singer Lance in particular is being pro-active. He’s finding them funds for a new killer video – by holding up banks at gunpoint.

Into this already fractious household stumbles our beautiful Josephine, found by Lance naked and clutching a bloody bed sheet on the side of the road. She has no idea how she is or how she got there. This is a mercy given what she’s been through these past centuries… these past decades… these past days.

So, yes, into this already fractious household swans our oblivious Jo and the band is completely smitten. Each one of them. That’s what she does to men, whether she wants to or not. They are in heaven; they are inspired – even Tom seems driven to write songs again. But Jo cannot help herself and resentful, alienated Darcy may be proved right: Josephine is trouble, and there’s plenty more hot on her heels. You wait until Jo starts dancing…

Make no mistake, the two eras are closely connected but Brubaker signposts none of that. You will have to wait and concentrate.

He’s written a tragedy. Josephine begins here as oblivious as Tom and it really is a mercy, a wonderful, liberating respite. But do you know the problem with respite? Its definition.

I have no idea how Brubaker keeps it all clear in his head let alone unfolds each element at exactly the right pace, at exactly the right moment: the men Jo has touched who follow her trail, her psychic scent, unable to let go no matter how many years pass by. Josephine is essentially innocent – at least as far as her intentions go, at least as far as her intentions would be if only she were left alone – yet she corrupts everyone around her and ruins them all, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes to escape. To live to fight another day.

Oh, Josephine has no problem living. It seems she cannot be killed; not for good. But there is a losing side to eternity and Jo is very much on it.

I can think of few other creative teams in America or Britain – and this straddles both – who have produced such an extraordinarily large body of work together, on different titles: CRIMINAL, SLEEPER, INCOGNITO and now FATALE, with THE FADE OUT approaching next. Consistently thrilling, gripping and addictive, they are a match made in… oh, I don’t know… a smoky dive bar, a dark alley best avoided, a speakeasy with the spotlight thrown on its stage.

I’ve made much of Sean Phillips’ twilight in past reviews – of the shadows he casts around corners so that you’re reluctant to look, or those he casts across faces so that you are equally reluctant to leave your life in their culpable hands – but what comes to the fore in this series, and in this volume in particular, is how fucking sexy his women are. Also: classy.

Josephine is chic, she is sexy and she is to die for. That is the quintessential point and hook of FATALE, and if Phillips didn’t pull it off in every single panel then Brubaker might as well have stayed home and done the dishes. Oh, when she hitches up her shirt (her shirt, not her skirt) with Lance helpless beneath her, she is completely irresistible! Her spell is blinding and binding and…

“She makes love like a force of nature. Afterwards, he feels nearly broken… but it’s pure bliss… At the edge of sleep, watching her sway to the beat of one of their songs…. He never wants this moment to end.”

Sean is also remorselessly good at rendering suffering and violence, yet without a second’s sensationalism. This is crime with a Lovecraftian twist, after all, and the throwaway punchline to my shop-floor show-and-tell of FATALE VOL 1 is, “Then there are tentacles and their heads fall off”. It usually gets a laugh and an immediate sale.

But this title involves ritualised murder and – key point, this – rendering the invulnerable male vulnerable. It’s all over their expressions once in thrall to Josephine’s allure (even more so once they recognise their helplessness), and he infallibly succeeds in making the male so physically vulnerable (hoist naked, upside down and aloft from a handcuffed beam) that you know they could never recover.

Not-so-gratuitous plug, then: THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS

Next and finally: since the very first issue of FATALE, Jo has had a plan. Well, she did have but it’s kind of fucked. What was it?