Fatale #19 (Image)

Fatale19

Rating: 4.5/5 – A shattering conclusion to the series’ penultimate arc.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Lawrence Arboleda.

Ed Brubaker has announced at the recently concluded Image Expo that his ongoing series Fatale with long-time collaborator/artist Sean Phillips will be ending at issue #25. This was sad news to me, though you have to give kudos to the creators for deciding to end a series at a point where it felt most natural. Fatale has stayed consistently strong since the first issue, giving us a unique tale that blends Lovecraftian horror, noir, and crime fiction in one delectable stew. The femme fatale has always been a staple character in crime fiction, and it’s a stroke of genius on Brubaker’s part to use Lovecraftian elements for the purpose of turning the femme fatale archetype into something more sympathetic, and, ironic as it sounds, more humane.

Fatale #19 is the stunning conclusion to what I would call the grunge arc. As with previous arcs, Josephine has unwittingly wreaked havoc in the lives of those unlucky enough to cross her path. After a rather “killer” performance at a music video shoot, she finally reawakens. Unfortunately, this reawakening puts her back on the radar of the great evil whose pursuit of her remains relentless. And just like many times in the past, she goes on the run again only to recover a strong resolve partly bolstered by her guilt as well as compassion for those whose lives have been compromised on her account, not to mention the anger simmering under the constant fear that continues to assail her in her rather long life.

Ed Brubaker has created a tightly woven epic that spans decades, using the unique sensibilities of each generation to expand further on Josephine’s mythology. While the decade-specific arcs do feel repetitive at times, there’s a sense of strong connective tissue that ties everything together quite beautifully. Brubaker’s use of narrative captions and dialogue is spare and precise, but leaves just enough room for the art to tell the story and for the reader to fill in the blanks. The narrative’s steady increase in tension is subtle and gradual, making the arc’s climax and denouement all the more satisfying.

As always, Sean Phillips’s art creates the perfect synergy to Ed Brubaker’s writing sensibilities. The strong noirish elements in his art convey an organic realism that is as singular as it is entrancing. His exemplary facial work makes you forget that you’re looking at fictional characters on a comic book page. His style is so distinct that you’d be hard-pressed to imagine another artist doing the art for this book. There are no two ways about it: Sean Phillips is a true master of the art form.

The epilogue at the end of this issue sets up the final arc quite nicely. The layers that have been built up from the first issue are now densely packed live wires ready to explode. And if the last page is any indication, it looks like Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips just set the series up for a great conclusion.

Reviewed by: Lawrence Arboleda
(lawrence@comicspectrum.com
)
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