Anyways, that mood passed, so I've been looking for stuff to read-- wound up buying a lot of the new Image books that have been coming out, for good or for ill. I still don't have enough time or thoughts or interest enough for the kind of writing I like to do, for my Super Deep Thoughts (TM). But I noticed lately when I've been talking about movies, when I have a lot I want to get out about a movie, that I've had a good time just rattling off ten things that I think, and then just getting on with my life (which is just too spectacular).
So I thought I could try to do that with some of these Image books...? Maybe it'll work; maybe it won't; this one turned out pretty boring, but. And maybe this'll be the only one I do-- maybe I get hit by a meteor tomorrow. So.... So, yeah. (Sorry I haven't done this in a while-- how do you start one of these again???). So... so...
2. For moods, for textures, the comic succeeds-- if how a story is told is as important as what it's about for you, there may be pleasure here in FATALE's suffocating panel grids, shadow-drenched faces, red hooded cultists lurking through rain soaked San Francisco. The "corrupt cop" narrating that the Octopus Monster's suicide-squad henchmen wouldn't start shit in Chinatown may not make a lick of fucking sense upon close examination, the fuck is he talking about, but if the end result is sunglass-wearing henchmen of an Octopus Man squaring off against a guy in a trenchcoat in a Chinatown opium den, then I'm not killjoy enough to complain. The next storyline supposedly takes place in 70's Los Angeles, apparently intent on replacing the book's post-war disillusionment with post-Manson post-hippie (maybe post-Watergate depending where we are in the 70's) disillusionment; hearing about that sold me on the comic more than anything else had-- wanting to spend time in that world, that particular Los Angeles. As a consumer of popular entertainment, I'm very much an involuntary sucker for certain images: if a story has a con man in it, or mismatched cops teaming up, or Amy Adams trying to bake a souffle, I'm ten times more likely to enjoy it. For my list of images, FATALE ticks enough of those boxes where I come out favorably towards it, and I have to admit I'm perpetually that simple-minded, that shallow. So, did I enjoy FATALE? Sure; more horror in the horror parts would be nice-- the British wave of writers would've had some more grotesque shit happen by issue 5 than gentle, classy hints that a woman died badly (which is as dark as the "horror" parts of this comic ever gets); but overall, sure. Could I explain to you what happened? Oh heavens, no-- heavens to murgatroyd, no, not at all. But did I enjoy it? Enjoyed it enough, spending time in that word; no regrets.
4. One thing that I don't have the math figured on with FATALE in my head: the main character of the framing sequences (set long after the action of the San Francisco storyline has gone down) has a white streak going through his hair, such that he very much resembles the character Jason Blood from Jack Kirby's THE DEMON. (Granted-- finding ways of making boring old Normal People look comic-book interesting is a tough business; I could compare whatshisname to Rogue of the X-Men comics but all I really remember about her is that she said "sugah" a lot and I was disappointed she didn't have sexy time with Magneto in that Jim Lee Savage Land run; see also, how many people with eye patches do you meet on a day to day level?). Still. The rest of the comic, it's not hard to read as a duck press of EC comics: dead women, weird cults, mobsters, monsters; that three-tier grid-- is that a thing you link in your head with EC? So, if we hold it up and look at FATALE as a EC comic with Jason Blood in the framing sequences instead of the Crypt Keeper or whoever, that means...? Maybe for some part of the audience, having a Kirby character learn his blood-soaked past has some frission to it. But if FATALE is a story about comics as much as it's a story about anything (and it's still too early and all too fuzzy to say whether that's so), I don't think that's how I prefer to interface with it because... Because I know my nature, and I'm inclined to be less generous reading it that way (e.g., on account of thinking that comic creators have taken way more than their fare share from Kirby already, maybe Brubaker and/or the people he typically works for specifically). (But I had a hard time with that Action Comics Obama issue that people got all hepped up about, too-- I'm just becoming worse at reading that kind of thing anymore; I'm a cranky guy).
6. Highpoint of the series so far? I'd say it's Stephen Blackmoore's essay on Raymond Chandler and Clifton's Cafeteria in the back matter of issue #4-- I really dig Chandler, and LA crime, so that all sent me. Of the comic itself? I'd say again, issue #4, the two-page stretch where the "corrupt cop" talks about his life-long awareness of the supernatural horror pervading his world, and how "it wore him down, knowing how small he was... how insignificant he was to the things in the shadows..." That seemd to me the point where the books' attempts to intersect horror and crime most succeeded-- the character of the detective who stared into the abyss too long, only transformed not by the emptiness of the abyss but by things in the abyss looking back at him. If I had to pick a point where I felt like the book most succeeded at what it seemed like it had set out to do, that one. Issue #4 was a good one overall-- though "Death Chases Me" suffers from maybe that same deficency as that very first CRIMINAL arc, where it seems to promise more in the penultimate issue, such that the conclusion in issue #5, the action movie of shoot-outs and octopus men and redemptive violence, disappoints.
8. The first issue had a splash page. FATALE for the most part clings to a rigid three-tier grid, somewhere between five to nine panels per page. Mostly seven panels-- on a three tier grid, seven sure seems to come up a lot, maybe just by the math of it, all the different ways to add to seven (3*2*2, 3-3-1, 4-2-1, 5-1-1, and all the permutations thereof). But the first issue has a flashback sequence (for the above-referenced dime-store Nazi plot) that it drops a splash page. I only have a couple issues of LAST OF THE INNOCENT in arm's reach, and couldn't find a splash in either of those. SLEEPER I remember having a very particular page layout scheme. Did they splash a lot in CRIMINAL before? Did they splash a lot in INCOGNITO? I don't remember; the INCOGNITO pages online that come up on a google image search suggest they played faster, looser with the grid, as you might expect, but I don't have a photographic memory for splashes, alas. Doesn't seem too common from them-- but is that what you want from that team? Visual bombast...? I guess I don't think of Brubaker or Phillips as excitement guys-- with Brubaker, what I find interesting is his career-long fascination with regret, how often he returns to that as a theme; the times he's written action spectacles have never really involved me very much. Phillips, I like for mood, more more than explosions-- he's more Toth, than Steranko. FATALE's not really an exciting comic to me-- but that's what I like about it, and when it tries to become "exciting" in the fifth issue, that's where I checked out.
10. It'd be nice to be knowledgeable enough to say whether FATALE represents a culmination of any kind of techniques or thematic considerations that have been building from the first CRIMINAL or SLEEPER before it, but I don't think that I'm clever like that. I read the CRIMINAL(s); read SLEEPER though didn't really care for it the way the entire rest of the internet seemed to; seen my share of Brubaker and/or Phillips in other contexts. FATALE feels more ambitious, in stretching out its story over multiple decades; but what's new about it for them besides that, I couldn't answer. But that's no small appeal-- that was the draw for me, more than the genre mish-mashing, just badly wanting a comic that reached for a bigger canvas rather just settle for immediate pulp pleasures. I don't yet know if that's what I've got-- what we'll have if mysteries are revealed, solutions are given; whether there'll be anything left of interest if what's been left fuzzy is eventually brought into focus.
(You can find Fatale on our digital store here)