Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: Fatale, Volume 3: West of Hell

Fatale, Volume 3: West of Hell Fatale, Volume 3: West of Hell by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If there’s a weak spot in this striking series, it’s this one.

I like the concept of taking Jo out of the sequence of her experiences around Nick. It’s striking to think of Jo as a kind of eternal-female, as someone who is in perpetual struggle with the demonic forces pursuing her. And Sean Phillips – whose art is always arresting – outdoes himself here in the Old West and World War II sequences.

But this one feels tacked on to the larger structure of the five-volume narrative.

[SPOILER] I still haven’t come to terms with whether we are supposed to see Mathilde as an earlier incarnation of Jo or whether she is one of those “sisters” we have referred to in other contexts. I can’t decide whether she’s a ‘fatale’ (for lack of another term for such women) who, falling into a trap, suffers an eternal agony, or whether she’s Jo in an incarnation that gets wiped from her memory for having died in some real way.

What’s more troubling than my uncertainty, though, is that I can’t quite feel as if the question matters. Either way, Jo is caught in an eternal struggle and this has some strange bearing on it. I like the image of the book at the end – a book we’ll stumble across in the later centuries the story chronicles – but I just don’t feel the connection.

The World War II sequences, where we first meet Hank, are more compelling and feel more a part of the larger narrative, but even there I miss the connection to Nick. That link, more than anything, marks the implicit promise that we’re dealing with a coherent story rather than a series inventing itself as it goes.

There’s much to admire here, but it seems the furthest from its source, and it disappoints set aside the other volumes.

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