Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: Fatale, Volume 5: Curse the Demon

Fatale, Volume 5: Curse the Demon Fatale, Volume 5: Curse the Demon by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a stand-along volume, this may be one of the weaker contributions to the story. It ties a lot of strands together, and I’d strongly discourage reading it if you haven’t read what comes before. If you have the bad luck to pick this up without the others handy, try to be patient. It reveals a lot, and there’s no going back. Once you get the picture of what Jo has in store for Nick, the rest of the series takes on a different hue.

As the culmination of a troubling atmospheric horror mystery, it’s pretty satisfying.

[SPOILER] Jo has managed to beat the bishop twice, once when Hank managed to steal his eyes and again, in volume two, when she sets him on fire and leaves him a charred and walking wreck. Given what we have hinted about what awaits her if she ever completely fails, it’s good to see the noxious old wreck suffering himself.

The final gambit seems pretty well earned. With the help of the mysterious Librarian, Jo has managed to put her own heart – with all the guilt and love she feels – into the bishop’s eyes. When he reassimilates them into himself, he finds himself overwhelmed with her feelings. As Jo explains to the bishop in what we realize only a little later is the big reveal, “I’ve never understood people like you…people who worship monsters. But my friend Otto explained something to me. He said you don’t understand us either.”

That detail is key because it explains the bishop’s bewilderment when he suddenly experiences all the emotions of the almost human Jo. The guilt, the love, the wonder, and the appreciation of the natural world are simply too much for him. Just as it would be torment for Jo to suffer undyingly whatever torments he has in mind for her, he suffers the torments of humanity. It’s too much, and he has to do what no human can do to him: he has to kill himself.

That works compellingly at a narrative level, and it wraps things up more or less as they should be. There’s an earned poignancy when we see the aged Jo staring again at the sea, and there’s an effective ambivalence as we see the catatonic Nick, who’s had to use his love for Jo as part of the bait to bring the bishop forward, listening without comprehension to the plans she’s made for his permanent care.

We see at last that Jo has used one last man to save herself, but we see as well that Nick has chosen everything that’s come to him. He begins as a wannabe writer with a taste for older things. He ends as someone who’s helped Jo accomplish a century long battle with the evil bishop. It’s a price he said he was willing to pay, and, as he stares at nothing when we see him last, he’s certainly paid it.

Someone may well make a movie out of all this, or better yet, someone may make a Netflix or HBO mini-series of 10-12 episodes. I’ll watch it, and I won’t be surprised if it’s very good. But this, as it is, is also very good. Graphic novels have come of age, and Fatale is some of the very best of it.

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