Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips 'Fatale #1' Is A New Take On Old Lovecraft [Review]

Let’s put it this way: if you’re already a fan of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips work on Marvel’s Icon titles, like Criminal, or Incognito, you have no excuse not to read their new supernatural noir series Fatale from Image. If you haven’t read those previous works? Well, read on, and we’ll see if we can’t convince you to try something new.

Actually, that’s not accurate at all… Fatale, like Criminal and Incognito before it are all Brubaker and Phillips chance to embrace the pulp aspects of comic books in a non-ironic way, with modern writing and art techniques. Each of the previous series is packed with back-matter (as this one is) exploring the genre further. For Criminal, it’s different shades of crime noir, as you can imagine. With Incognito, it was superhero books through a dark gritty lens. And for Fatale, the duo is turning their attention to horror and the supernatural, with a strong emphasis on the Lovecraft side of things.

That’s if you couldn’t already tell that from the tentacle-faced guy on the cover.

By the way, I’m going to skirt spoilers here, so you can come into the story fresh, but the boldest thing Bru and Phi do is to tell the story in two different time periods, and at that, rather abruptly. In the slightly more modern era, a man finds himself suddenly on the run and in circumstances over his head. In the best Lovecraftian tradition, it involves a manuscript, and I’d have to imagine the reader will slowly go mad. Because that’s what always happens.

The manuscript itself is a thinly veiled autobiography from the author, detailing events that happened decades before involving the aforementioned cult, ritual sacrifices, and people who may actually be demons from another dimension. And again, though we jump to the manuscript’s text pretty abruptly (probably my only qualm with this book), it’s also pretty easy to pick up on why we do, given Phillips steady pencils.

I don’t want to over-emphasize this, but at this point, having worked together so much… Brubaker and Phillips know how to make great pulp comics. There’s nothing lazy about the collaboration… Far from it: the most recent volume of Criminal is easily the best thing they’ve ever done, and most of what they’ve done was very good to begin with. Here, though, it’s their track record that’s going to keep me coming back to this.

The reason is, there’s a lot less to hold on to in this first issue… The idea here is to present a bunch of strange things, and I imagine over the next few issues the web will tighten and the connections will be drawn. Given that I’ve read most of their previous work, I’m completely confidant it will get there. But the two definitely throw the reader into the deep end here, starting with an action sequence, introducing a ton of characters, and ending on a disturbing cliffhanger that should get people interested in reading much more.

Point being, Fatale is not a comic you can casually flip through in a few minutes… Its something with meat, subtext, and strong individual characters that demands to be read through a few times. That’s something that sounds like the OPPOSITE of Pulp, right? But in essence, that’s what the pair have been doing all along, taking Pulp tropes and creating something new, that also feels very old and familiar at the same time. It’s like the first time you have spicy hot chocolate. You’re all like, “Well, hot chocolate is familiar and comforting, but what is going on with my tongue?”

Okay, I’ve totally lost my already tenuous handle on this review at this point. Like I said up top, this is a must buy for fans of the pair. For those new to their corner of the comic book world? Grab Fatale #1, grab a spicy hot chocolate, and take the time to discover a new twist on an old favorite.

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