To celebrate the release of Batman vs Superman: Collateral Damage and also the appearance of The Punisher on Daredevil I look up at the corner of my living room and wonder if that’s dust or a cobweb. Deciding it’s just a shadow, I galvanize myself and consider a book by Gilbert Hernandez about a woman who kills zombies in the future. ‘Cos I’m dead classy, pal. FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS by Gilbert Hernandez Anyway, this… FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS By Gilbert Hernandez This book collects issues one through four of the Dark Horse comic book series FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS, originally published June through September 2012. Dark Horse Comics, $19.99 (2014) © 2012, 2014 Gilbert Gernandez
The more donnishly inclined may feel “in media res” a tad too high-falutin’ a term for a book which dives face first into the trough of trash with its mouth stretched quite so cheerfully wide but, nevertheless, FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS by Gilbert Hernandez opens with the world already more than halfway to being Hell in a blender. Also, I’m not sure what anyone even remotely familiar with the term donnish is doing buying a book like this; one where the cover sports a sturdily thewed female triumphantly erect amid the ketchup spattered and cabbagey looking heads of the downed undead. So, FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS, in stark and humiliating contrast to this review, gets straight in there; it doesn’t do that thing of “worldbuilding” for four issues, ending the book on a splash of Fatima picking up her gun for the first time. No, because Gilbert Hernandez is a busy man; those comics where people fellate themselves inside out don’t draw themselves! World building is for slow bozos, not the human bolt of creative lightning whose name is an anagram of “Blazing Her Tender”. When the book opens ol’ Blazing’s already got his world in place and his girl is in motion.
FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS by Gilbert Hernandez And what a world it is she moves through! In the future it seems everything will be designed by the Jesse Marsh School of Architects, on the downside though everything will also be in the process of falling to bits, including the people. Because of drugs. Or one drug in particular – Spin. With just one dose users become temporary heptathletes, unfortunately within hours their eyes turn into runny eggs, their flesh hangs off them like an old man’s ball bag and long pig is dish of the day, every day. Zombies basically, or near enough to make you run like The Devil’s trying to goose you. This is what Fatima and her well-built compadres are up against. Alas, Fatima’s organisation seems staffed entirely by armed fitness fanatics who have not been chosen for their cerebral acumen. I guess a shortage of brains is a plus when up against zombies, but it’s a bit of a minus regarding the mobile action-figure cast’s twofold task – discover the source of Spin and find a cure. Strictly speaking though, that’s the source of the leak of Spin they’re after, since the government developed it itself; but then someone decided to entrepreneurially maximise the fiscal potential of the narcotic i.e. sell the shit on the sly. Fatima and her buff buddies engage in a number of savagely violent and cast-cullingly unsuccessful sting exercises, before things degenerate rapidly and discombobulatingly into a lurid maelstrom of horror, betrayal and sexual grotesquery.
And, really, who better to so tastefully delineate such luridly diseased and repellently comical larks than The Man Hernandez. Here he brings his typically crisp and efficient cartooning to bear upon the apocalyptic horrors on show, finely calibrating the friskiness of his art to blunt just enough of the horror’s edge to make it fun. It’s not all fun though, FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS is a deeper read than it may at first seem. Fatima’s recurrent refrain of “Whatever” is droll stuff, until it sinks in that this is how she deals with the pain of the world she inhabits, at which point it becomes poignant in its futility. A mob beats someone to death so badly that Fatima can’t tell whether they were a zombie or just a luckless tramp, meanwhile she and her pals cavort about clad in invisibility jockstraps with hairdryer ray guns. In the white glare of the panel gutters years pass and entire cities are razed, but there’s space made on page for Fatima to indulge in artless double entendres regarding her hunky colleague. Society is advanced enough for flying saucers and AI channeling specs, but people remain human enough to still pay to be poisoned for pleasure. There are points being made here, points hidden amongst all the play.
Given his past form it’s no surprise that Hernandez’ work here is intelligent and horrific. The surprise, if one there be, is given the extent of the intelligence and horror on show how much fun, how bouncily appealing, it all is. No mean feat when the book’s multiple Screaming Mad George-esque delights include a man giving birth through his face. The nimbleness of Hernandez’ artistic touch gives everything an adorably camp air which playfully wrestles with the sick shenanigans throughout. As your gorge rises its only Hernandez’ gleeful and seemingly guileless delivery which causes it to subside. Gilbert Hernandez creates and maintains a tone which is consistently inconsistent, which sounds impossible but through Art the impossible is attained or at least grazed, and Gilbert Hernandez is, lest you forget, an Artist. Still more, Gilbert Hernandez is a Rushmore Level Talent (©®™ Tom Spurgeon) even when drawing zombies being kicked in the face so hard twin jets of diseased blood spurt from their nostrils. Do I gush? Only like a severed artery, hotballs. Which is as it should be since FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS is VERY GOOD!
NEXT TIME: Maybe a look at my pull list? It’s been a while since I put you through that particularly tasty Hell. Quality aside, I can categorically state here and now that that they are – COMICS!!!