REVIEW: Fatale #14

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The mysterious Josephine returns to the Fatale series with a Lovecraftian bang. Brubaker and Phillips delve into the backstory of Josephine and Walt Booker, a classic love story full of Nazis, cthulhu monsters, human sacrifices, and old gypsy women. Is it a love story for the ages or one that will be devoured by the Master of R’lyeh himself? More after the jump!

6b28f014879c1ae46c9cc50c6d002d80-fatale14cFatale #14
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.50

Previously in Fatale: The story of Bonnie Smith, an outlaw living in the Wild West, was recounted. After being captured by a snake oil merchant and an American Indian hunter, Bonnie was used as bait to get ahold of a cult’s bible, the same cult that has been hunting women like her centuries. Her story, unlike her predecessors, had a surprisingly happy ending… sorta.

NAZIS MAKE EVERYTHING MORE EVIL

Brubaker continues his series of Fatale one-offs, this time delving into the back story of how Walt met Josephine, a sordid affair filled with Nazis and cthulhu cults. Picking up a little where Fatale #11 left off, Josephine has come to Romania in an effort to learn more about a mysterious ritual that turned her into what she is now, a ritual that Brubaker is intent on never letting the audience in on, apparently.

It’s nice to see a bit of whom Walt Booker was before we met him at the start of the series. As a seer of sorts, Booker has always been able to see things regular mortals couldn’t—and this generally means he can see squid-type creatures running around killing people. Here, with Walt feeling more at home in a WWII atmosphere—which he describes as a metaphorical playground for the monsters and their cultists—the reader gets to see youthful and slightly more hopeful Booker, not the dying semi-villainous man he later becomes. It’s kind of a shame he gets caught up with Jo at all.

While it’s frustrating that we’re generally no closer to finding out what Josephine and her predecessors are and why they can do what they can do and what all this has to do with cthulhu-esque cults, Brubaker does know how to weave one hell of a story. And weaving a noir story with Lovecraftian overtones doesn’t seem like an easy feat, but Brubaker does it, being more than able to keep the pulp narrative (and reader’s interest) alive. That isn’t to say his work is flawless.

There are two bruises on this otherwise delectable fruit. First, what’s with the golems? For a while now, versions of these golem characters have been stalking the series, showing up as the Big Bad’s henchmen. Here, though, Jo and Walt literally stumble over what is possibly their assembly line… or, their assembly pool in this case. The whole situation leaves the Walt and Jo (and the reader) a bit baffled. Since these characters are an integral part of the story, it may have been better to introduce them in a different way, as opposed having Walt and Jo accidentally run onto their breeding grounds. As it is, it’s just sort of confusing.

Second, the most off-putting part of this book is it’s lead character. Until very recently, Josephine has served as a damsel-in-distress type entity that’s scared of using her abilities aggressively. It was a nice step-up when she finally took the initiative in her own life. Here, though, we’re forced back in the presence of frightened Jo. While it’s true, most people wouldn’t exactly be Captain Courage when they’re about to be sacrificed by Cthulhu-worshiping Nazis, seeing fainthearted Jo again is an annoying reminder of what she used to be like. Hopefully we never see this side of her again.

TENTACLE HEADS!

Sean Phillips is a natural fit for Brubaker and the Fatale series. His work seems to naturally mesh with Brubaker’s writing, able to compliment the story instead of overpowering it. All his work is fairly dark with heavy shading, allowing the reader to see just enough of a scene without overdoing it with unnecessary detail. All of his panels have a spooky feel to them, as well as a sense of movement, something that is very integral when one is drawing Nazis with tentacle heads.

It would be nice to have a more consistent head shape for Josephine, though. There’s nothing inherently wrong about her character design, but her hair and head shape do sometimes have a life of their own, a little like an amorphous blob. This is really just a nitpicky detail, however, and it really doesn’t detract from the art itself.

BOTTOM LINE: JUST TELL ME WHAT’S UP WITH JO, ALREADY!

Even with all my frustrated gnashing of teeth at still knowing diddly about Jo or her place in this universe that Brubaker has created, I will be back for the next issue. It’s a good edition to the Fatale plot line dealing specifically with Josephine. While it’s a good book, for followers of the series, there isn’t really a lot of new information here. Mostly it’s coloring in what’s already known. For fans of the series, it might be a nice one to pick up but for the casual reader, it can probably be skipped. Overall, Fatale earns three stars out of five.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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