Storytellers: Ed Brubaker; Sean Phillips; Elizabeth Breitweiser
Publisher & Release Date: Image Comics – July 30th, 2014
Here we are at the epic end to the wonderful, amazing, and all around awesome story that is FATALE by Brubaker and Phillips. Those words might sound like hyperbole to some, but this book has been nothing short of a masterpiece, and its finale only serves to cement that status even further, bringing the story to a close that feels frightening and bittersweet, but is wholly satisfying. If there’s one thing that I don’t like about the conclusion, it’s the fact that it is a conclusion to a story that I have enjoyed so fully over its run, that it will be sad to not have it to read each and every month. But truly, FATALE is a triumph, with issue #24 ending the series in style.
This is a confrontation 23 issues in the making, and there is not a single point where it disappoints. There’s many factors that can be attributed to the success of the series, but it’s with little doubt that it’s the combined creative vision (and dedication) of Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser to put this series together in such a grand fashion and tease us with bits and pieces of Jo’s story over time to have every culminate in this final arc. Yet there’s still something special about seeing this final (expanded) issue come together: from Phillips’ storybook-like pages that kick off the issue, to his highly effective and creepy art throughout the rest of the issue (including some jaw-dropping splash pages), there’s just way too much to like here. But more than anything else, it’s really the feeling that everything has been leading up to this, and those who have followed the series from the beginning will certainly be rewarded.
Nary a panel or piece of dialogue is wasted here, as the creative team is firing on all cylinders, with excellent pacing leading us from the first page to the last at the edge of our seats. Brubaker’s scripting is exceptional here, with each scene feeding into the next, but always leaving us eager to figure out just where it is all heading. Of course, he throws in some wicked twists here and there–with some whoppers saved for the end–yet all of it seems earned, with some resulting in tragedy, which has become a staple of this series. Phillips being an equal partner here, continues to do some career-defining work here, alternating between moments of what appears to be misplaced hopefulness and utter despair as the scenes shift and the plot thickens. Whether it’s the striking violence of the otherwordly landscapes and scenery, Phillips has us feeling as though we’ve entered another world entirely, unwilling to let us go. Those cracks and grit that I’ve mentioned in previous reviews are all here, capturing the monstrous and the human effectively. Breitweiser’s colors bring everything together, maintaining that lovely horror-noir aesthetic, often keeping the light just behind the darkness, a stark reminder that there may be a little hope just beyond the horizon, but you’ll have to go through hell to get there.
I could go on and on about how great this issue is, but I don’t want to risk spoiling any of it. Instead, it should suffice to say that Fatale as a series is a great accomplishment. One of the most compelling reasons for that label is that it challenges our expectations when it comes to the Femme Fatale, often relegated to the status of plot device rather than fully fleshed out character. Indeed, Brubaker has turned some genre conventions on their heads here, in some cases relegating the male characters to the status of the femme fatale throughout the series, but never failing to imbue them with personality, needs and desires that make them feel human. Sure, many (okay, nearly all) fell prey to the powers of Josephine, but it was telling this story through her perspective and her struggles that made this story unique. So many comics get a bad rap for not featuring fully-formed and developed female characters, but Fatale is a shining example (among some other current great ones, like Lazarus) of a female character that is intriguing as any fictional character could be. That this might be the last we see of her is a shame.
At the same time, Fatale is a fine example of what you get when you allow a creative team to realize their vision without compromise. This is Brubaker and Phillips’ story, and it’s fantastic. They were able to build a world and populate it with interesting and frightening characters, while mashing together all kinds of great genres into a single, exciting package, month in and month out. As a symbol of what comics can accomplish, it’s highly effective and highly recommended. Many may still associate comics with superheroes and capes, but limiting them to such ideas is incredibly short-sighted. With the wealth of wonderful and inventive creator-owned comics available now, Fatale stands as one of the best that the medium has to offer, thanks to its creative team’s efforts, which should be applauded.
I started off with words that might have seemed like they were praising this book perhaps too hard, only to go on further and lavish more and more praise on this unique and exciting tale–this was not by accident, but by design. FATALE does indeed go out the way it should, with a compelling final chapter that provides a satisfying and triumphant conclusion to a story that is not only creative and challenging, but a standout example of what the visual storytelling medium is capable of. If you haven’t read this series, don’t wait a second longer: read FATALE!