Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: "Fatale" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Note: This review is actually for Fatale #1 and #2.  Both were out so I figured what the heck.
Ed Brubaker is probably best known for his gold-standard run on Marvel's Captain America, along with other stints on various Marvel and DC titles. To most dedicated comic book fans, though, Brubaker is synonymous with his creator-owned works like Criminal and Incognito. For his most recent book, Brubaker is going back to his roots, along with collaborator Sean Phillips, for Fatale, and the team is picking up right where they left off.

On its surface, Fatale is a crime/noir book.  It has a man who gets roped into something bigger than he realizes, a mysterious femme fatale (if the title wasn't enough, spoiler alert, I guess?), and a hailstorm of bullets.  If quickly becomes evident, though, that there's much more to the situation as the occult and mystical are introduced.  Throw that in with a number of characters and a flashback to 50 years earlier, and Fatale packs a lot.  Whenever there's a chance for things to get cluttered and confusing, though, Brubaker knows when to pull back and focus on the characters, which he does very well.  Fatale is full of hardboiled exposition and monologues, the kind of voice over that you'd expect to see from the best noir films.  The dialogue is sharp and each character is distinct.  There's a fear of getting lost, but Brubaker makes sure you never are.

Along for the ride, appropriately, is Sean Phillips.  The art is dark and moody and absolutely sets to tone for every scene, whether it's a funeral, a shootout, or a gruesome cult murder.  Phillips and Brubaker have worked together on a number of creator-owned books so it's no surprise that they're on the same page with Fatale.  It's not often that writing definitely needs a particular art style, or vice versa, but they go together so well that it's hard to imagine Fatale being close to the same book without this pairing.

Brubaker is in his element when he's playing in his own sandbox.  He's unrestrained and at his best with Fatale, and for anyone looking for something other than superheroes or straight-up sci-fi or fantasy, it's certainly worth checking out.

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