ADVANCE REVIEW! Fatale #3 will go on sale Wednesday, March 7, 2012.
I know that I shouldn't be — given the talent behind this comic — but I am always remarkably surprised by how much I wait in anticipation for the next issue of Fatale to hit the shelves. So much so that I jumped at the chance to write an advanced review for this issue. I am having Fatale withdrawals in the few short weeks between issues, and we are only on #3! That said, Brubaker and Phillips always manage not to disappoint (and that is quite an understatement where this comic is concerned).
Fatale #3 takes place in two parts. The first is an Interlude, where we return to the story of Nicolas Lash — godson of Hank Raines — and what happens to him following the events of the first issue that led to the loss of his right leg. The second part is Chapter 3, which continues the story of Hank Raines, Detective Walt Booker and the beautiful — but illusive — Josephine.
There was not much plot contained within the 24 pages of this comic, but don't think that means the issue falls short. The story runs at a much slower pace and focuses more on the characters in the world that Brubaker and Phillips are creating. While this issue could be seen as a bridge between what happened in issue #2 and what is to happen in issue #4, one cannot feel as if this issue does not hold its own. To be fair, the only reason one could possibly feel this way is because of the cliffhanger ending of #2 and not finding out exactly what happens in the pages of the following issue. All we really know is that the next issue is going to be gruesome and horrifying.
The Interlude was a very welcome opener. When reading issue #2, I was wondering what had happened to Nicolas Lash and whether we would ever find out. I also found it odd that I enjoyed this part of the issue a bit more than the following part (which easily has more character development and shocking moments than the first part). Maybe it's the first-person narration? Maybe it's because I like seeing how much Josephine can affect a man so much after spending so little time with him? Maybe it is the fear that is shown on his face in that final panel? That Sean Phillips can draw fear in a man's face like so few artists can.
In Chapter 3, we open on crooked cop Walt Booker after Raines' story goes to press. Booker's part in the story has to be one of the most interesting scenes we've gotten with him in the book, so far. While Brubaker gave us a couple scenes with Booker on his own in the last issue, I feel that this was the first opportunity we get to see Booker as he is versus how Josephine sees him. The end of his scene left me wondering whether we had Booker all wrong. Is Booker such an evil bastard? Is he actually trying to help Josephine and not just throw her to the wolves to save his own hide? Maybe I'm reading it all wrong, but I may have actually empathized with Walt this issue. Then again, maybe I'm just an evil bastard…
While I said that Chapter 3 may come off as a bridge between Chapter 2 and Chapter 4, there is quite a bit we learn of Josephine in this chapter. Well, not learn, but catch a glimpse of. We get a powerful moment where we meet the dark forces that lovely Jo possesses. And as she says to Hank, "I'm not the girl you think I am." We know that Jo can get men to pretty much give them whatever it is that they want and can draw any man into her web, but we have never learned the extent to which a member of the male gender would go to please her. And I don't think that we do here either, but we reach some pretty remarkable depths here. We may still be oblivious to what happened to Josephine to turn her into the all-encompassing archetype of the femme fatale, but Brubaker does give us a bit of a tease here. And, boy, I cannot wait to hear what the lady has to say!
But enough about Brubaker. Sean Phillips and Dave Stewart do so much to add to the dark — then exciting — tone of this issue. I feel I may have said this in a prior review, but Phillips has a talent for faces. There are quite a few panels — often even small ones — where his faces speak 20 decibels louder than Brubaker's words coming out of them. And as a writer, that is not taking any credit from Brubaker's script. Phillips' art is just that flawless in many a panel. As for Stewart's colors, he manages to change the mood of an issue within a single panel. His cool blues and grays suddenly changing to warm reds and oranges actually get your heart pumping faster for a few seconds.
The surreal mystery that Brubaker and Phillips are laying out for us is one of the few comics that I am reading that stays with me in the weeks between the next issue. We may want to know what happened to Josephine during the war or what happened to Raines' wife, but it is only issue #3 and he most certainly cannot give it all away in the first act. But, until we know what is cloaked in the darkness, this book will have you champing at the bit for the next issue for as far as I can see.
Nick Boisson grew up on television, Woody Allen, video games, Hardy Boys mysteries and DC comic books, with the occasional Spider-Man issue thrown in for good measure. He currently roams the rainy streets of Miami, Florida, looking for a nice tie, a woman that gets him, and the windbreaker he lost when he was eight. He sometimes writes things down on Twitter at @nitroslick.