Review by Jamie McNeil
Spoilers in review
“This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence… Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?”
Opening with this quote from Nietzsche, the entire cycle that Fatale revolves around is perfectly summarised as the final confrontation between Bishop and Josephine reaches its zenith. Jo searches for Nicolas, suspecting that Nelson has something to do with his absence, while Bishop desperately hunts Josephine before the next planetary convergence falls into place. Jo has different plans, hunting down cultists even as they search for her and the final pieces of the puzzle fall into place we meet The Librarian (as mentioned in Pray for Rain), learn more about Josephine’s connection with Nicolas’ father, and finally discover the tragic truth about her son.
If you think Fatale couldn’t possibly become more tragic you’d be wrong. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have the misery dripping off the page with heart-rending revelations, but despite this bleakness the strength of the plot compels you to keep reading. That’s not to say it is entirely satisfactory. Some aspects of the finale, particularly with regard to Bishop, don’t make sense. Bishop is the most enigmatic character of the whole series, and the nature of this deadly cycle is an unexplainable mystery that the creators never planned to resolve. Fatale is both noir and supernatural thriller, so is definitely not happy stuff and this all contributes to what feels like an unsatisfactory ending. The inexplicable mystical elements leave a dent in the finale, the only time over four books that Brubaker’s story has faltered slightly.
Phillips’ art is still awesome to behold, switching to a slightly trippy presentation as the cosmos folds and unfolds, before flipping back to the dark noir landscapes that have cemented this series and make Curse the Demon the darkest and broodiest tale yet. Brubaker and Phillips are arguably one of the best illustrated story teams around, literally spending years meticulously tying up this story with both words and pictures and staying with you on many levels.
The pair’s work on Fatale led to Image Comics signing an unprecedented deal with Brubaker and Phillips to work exclusively for the company over five years, simultaneously giving them free reign, total control over their own projects, and handing them absolute creative ownership over all projects old and new. That’s how good this story has been and even the unsatisfactory plot points mentioned earlier can’t spoil that.
Further testament to their genius is Fatale’s almost immediate compilation into collectible hardcover in The Deluxe Edition Volume 1-2.