Fatale #2 and #3

Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Sean Phillips

The story of the mysterious woman continues in these two issues, as we learn more about her and the secrets she withholds from the men who have no choice but to find her irresistible.  While Nicholas looks for clues in an unpublished manuscript while trying to stay alive, back in the past, a reporter might have his own life ruined as he's caught up in an affair that involves horrible crimes, cults, and a corrupt cop.  Can anyone survive in the world of this Fatale?

I was really intrigued by the first issue of this comic, and was curious if I would still like it as the series moved on.  Though the pace is a bit slower than I'd like for a noir story, overall, I'm happy with the direction and the increased mystery that Brubaker and Phillips provide.  I really have no clue where this story is going to go, except that it will be dark, violent, and probably full of monsters, which is a perfect direction for this mash-up of genres.

 Brubaker and Phillips are long-time collaborators and it shows in these issues.  Phillips' visuals, which are always quite good, match Brubaker's storyline perfectly.  I love that Phillips understands the concept that what the reader *doesn't* see can be just as powerful (if not more so) than what we do see.  I have no problem with gore, but the fact that in a story like this, the grisly scenes have been kept to a minimum shows the craft of the creators.  It also means that when we do hit the inevitable blood bath that I predict is going to be around the corner, it will hit the reader like a fist to the chest instead of being buried amongst pages and pages of gore.

No stranger to crime comics or the genre itself, Brubaker does a very good job of establishing that in a world like this, no one is a hero. Each of the main characters we've seen has their own agenda, and follows it whether that's the right thing to do or not.  Nicholas is hiding things from the police and the publisher, Detective Booker has a list of sins a mile long, our mysterious fatale has powers and uses them to keep alive (no matter the cost), and even minor players like the police chief aren't free from sin.  It's a perfect tone for a book like this, and I appreciate that Brubaker hasn't tried to make someone likable or honorable.  These are flawed individuals, and their flaws will be their downfall.  Now we as readers get to watch.

There's a lot to like about these comics, and the only flaw is that women tend to get the short end of the character stick.  If this were a comic designed to be modern in style, I'd have a major issue with that. However, because Fatale is designed to work within the classic noir genre, I can deal with the problem.  It's hard (impossible?) to find a good noir story that isn't hard on women, because during the time they were written, women were even less respected than they are today.  If Brubaker suddenly had his women being portrayed positively, I think the feel of the story would be off.  Maybe that's just me.

Fatale is insanely popular right now, hitting sales marks that rival a Marvel and DC level.  I couldn't be happier to hear that, because it's a great comic that looks like it's only going to get better.  I definitely recommend it for crime comic fans, and this is a candidate for my best of list if it continues to be this solid, month in and month out.