Louie Falcetti writes for Bleeding Cool
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips don't have to prove anything to anybody. They've produced the best crime comics of the last decade with Criminal, they've done their own unique brand of pulp aged super-villainy with Incognito and now they're spinning a horror tale that's quickly making a name for itself right alongside those other titles with Fatale.
The first volume felt like the brain sick love child of Criminal and Alan Moore's Neonomicon albeit with far, far less horror rape. Although Fatale has always worn it's Lovecraftian influence on it's sleeve, so perhaps it's that I just wanted to use the phrase "horror rape" and Millar didn't put out any books this week. Now that we're into the second issue of the second volume though, the title is speaking with a more clearly defined voice.
That voice has shifted the focus from the present day protagonist of the first volume, Nicolas Lash, to a story from earlier in the life of the mysterious and deadly Josephine. Now we're in the Hollywood hills, in the late 1970s and washed up, addict actor Miles has stumbled across Jo's palatial estate by the sea with the bleeding body of Suzy Scream under his arm. On the run from a massacre at a party thrown by some kind of cult called The Method Church.
Now Suzy is stashed at Jo's pad, while Jo and Miles are going to check out a midnight mass at the Hollywood cemetery with the intent of getting a look at a book that Jo wants. Is it supernatural powers or the typical 70s Hollywood male that gives Jo the ability to get whatever she wants out the men unlucky enough to see her smile? Probably a little of both as a junked out Suzy Scream gets bad feelings watching the two leave..
Now that the ball is officially rolling for the second story arc, Fatale drops down a gear from break neck insanity to speed walking insanity in order to give the audience a more fleshed out tour of this seedy land of sun and sin. Criminal is practically a love letter to dive bars, neon strip club signs reflected in dirty puddles and bruisers with big hats and jackets ready to work someone over. Fatale shows that Phillips doesn't need the grease and grime to recreate with dazzling accuracy the filthier bits of America's 20th century. Meanwhile Stewart's azure skies, torchlit cemeteries and body strewn cult rooms give the story a feel that Grindhouse lost millions trying to recreate with computers, the raw feel of 40 years ago.
I can't imagine things going well for our new protagonist Miles, given how things are continuing to play out. He's shooting up, he's being manipulated by Jo and he's trying to sell an occult snuff film to a big time producer. He's not thinking things through and I have a feeling that the bodies are only just beginning to pile up.
The more cultured reader might've caught the references to Annie Hall in issue 6, and I swear that the kitchen of Dominic Raines is Don Draper's old one from the house he shared with Betty, this issue seems to be dripping with Manson references. From the overt name drop in the cemetery, meant to imply the import of The Method Church leader Hansel, to the more subtle appearance of the two girls out searching for the missing Suzy who bare striking resemblance to Manson Family members in their clothing and cadence. H.P. Lovecraft to Charles Manson in a place that needs no help in resembling a demonic cesspool, Hollywood, in a story by two masters of the genre, if you haven't started reading Fatale yet you clearly don't love comics.