Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: Fatale, Volume 1: Death Chases Me

Fatale, Volume 1: Death Chases Me Fatale, Volume 1: Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read parts of this overarching story a number of times – and I recently taught this first volume in a history of American Noir class – but I’d never read all of it straight through. Since Brubaker and Phillips are – as I have come to understand – about as good as it gets in graphic novels, I thought it was worth reflecting on each separate volume in the context of the whole.

For starters, if you’re new to this, be sure to start with the first volume. That’s not true with their equally excellent Criminal series – there you can start pretty much where you like – but this is one long story. I once tried to read volume three before volume two, and it made almost no sense to me.

It’s also true that the first volume functions very well as a self-contained account. It’s a great noir story, one that – despite what the title implies – gives some real agency to its heroine. Josephine may be gorgeous, and she may have the uncanny ability to force men to do what she wants, but she is more than simply a manipulator. She confronts some initially unexplained horrors, and consequently earns a pass for some of her especially awful manipulation of men. She’s running from a supernatural fate, one far worse than death for an ordinary human, and she’s confronted by low-lifes and users of every sort. We can kind of cut her some slack for killing a few dozen guys along the way.

This first volume is clearly the best in the series both because it seems to invent a brand new genre – the hardboiled horror slipstream mystery – and because it implies so much potential horror. We get a lot explained in later issues, and I suppose we have to, but here, where it’s simply hinted at, it has all the more power.

Read this one if it sounds at all down your alley. Afterwards, as good as it is (and as good as the follow-ups can often be) you have permission to stop.

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