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A thrilling crime-noir with more than a dash of horror, Fatale does nothing revolutionary… except that it may prove to be one of the best new titles of 2012. The narration feels like it has come out of a crime novel and the multiple genres combine into a wonderfully grotesque drama filled with crime, the regression and renewal of passion, and some decapitated bodies.
After the death of his “hack” detective novelist godfather, Nicolas Lash finds his godfather’s first manuscript… and a group of mysterious men at his doorstep with guns blazing. With the help of a sensuous woman named Jo, who has an indirect connection to his godfather, Nicolas must escape alive while learning about his godfather’s past through his manuscript, which is filled with affairs, corruption, and monstrous horrors.
The story, written by Ed Brubaker, frequently shifts between present-day and San Francisco in the 60s’. It is uniquely well-integrated into a novel-esque format, with this issue featuring the prologue and first chapter of the story. As a first issue, there is still a lot to be uncovered, and the mysterious elements of this series, while somewhat confusing, do not take away from the entertainment value of this issue; readers just need to pay a lot of attention to what is going on. A lot is accomplished story-wise in this issue, and despite that the story is still paced well and still has no answers to any of the mysteries, which will pique readers’ curiosity by the end of the issue after already having enjoyed many unbelievable twists and turns the issue takes with its characters. The biggest flaw is just how confusing the story can get as a result of these great twists, turns and shifts in time.
The genres are balanced well together, with enough gore to make the comic feel like a monotonous blood-bath, but this will get some readers’ stomachs roiling. The biggest flaw is the narration, which reads like an old-detective novel (an obvious feel the writer was going for) which falls prey to novel problems that a comic should not bow to because of too much telling and not enough showing.
For a first issue, not only is the story set-up well, but so are the characters. All are mysterious, but our main protagonists already have the same feel as the story with a dark edge about them that makes not only the “villainous” characters, but also the “heroes” appear untrustworthy and intriguing. Nicholas clearly hates his father, and seeing the origin of this hatred is something to look forward to. Jo is also a beautiful love interest who is very strong and gets many multiple once-overs from the men in this comic (probably because of her lovely character design). She also adds a nice touch to the comic, as readers go from one page with horrific elements to another page with her sultry presence: she is quickly shaping up to be a very great femme fatale.
Sean Phillips’ character designs are very good with many of his figures sharing striking resemblances to real people. The colors of Dave Stewart also reflect the mood of the piece well, giving it a very dismal mood with the help of dirty browns, greens and some flourishes of bloody reds. The only flaw in the artwork is the neglect to make the backgrounds as striking as the characters, reverting to poorly drawn drops of rain and other uninspiring and bland backdrops like the cemetery.
Fatale #1, while creating a long and detail first part to a solid tale, also leaves behind a lot of mysteries that will have readers scratching their heads in wonder. This story, combined with the realistic characters and artwork, make this issue great for any fans of crime-noir or who like horror. Fatale #1: a great way to kick off the New Year!