Comics news of late? No, definitely not getting into that. It’s horrible. And it’s just going to be the same drumbeat.
Art by Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Writing by Ed Brubaker
Published by Image
Fatale has been, if nothing else, smart. The three distinct arcs for the series–and the one-off fillers which took up a bit too much of the series’ middle run–have all been about male gaze. Josephine, the supernatural femme fatale, has powers boil down to seduction, yes, but this largely plays on an aspect of masculinity which is already there: desire to control and possess. Josephine goes skinny dipping before the issue’s climax, and an older acquaintance reminds her “I’m still a man.” The next page shows sharks, circling Josephine as she floats on the ocean surface. Sean Phillips casts this image similarly to the night swimming Josephine does in the L.A. arc, itself a play on romance comic imagery, pulling back to reveal the predatory nature of watching Josephine’s private moments. Themes of sexism are tied to historical corruption throughout the series: crooked cops and mobsters in the 40s, Hollywood exploitation in the 70s, or even further back to Inquisitions and Crusades, where men in power abuse and destroy those they’ve kept beneath them–particularly women. The tenth issue ended on Josephine asserting her own sexuality, only for this bodily ownership to be turned back on her later by serial rapists and musicians (among others) projecting their demons onto her. Since this is working solely from tropes, though, Phillips and Ed Brubaker do not conceive any end to this horror, only an escape. To no longer be noticed by men. Cynical, self-defeating, but perhaps enough for a single life.
Art by Facundo Percio and Hernan Cabrera
Writing by Garth Ennis
Published by Avatar
A plotline which revolves around decoding the remnants of an alien history. Men altered into homicidal beasts by chemicals and parasites. Vast collections of incomprehensible objects and animals. Human bodies reduced to fragile playthings for cold, pitiless monsters. Everything in Caliban moves from the freakshow setup of Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel, Prometheus, but brushes off the idiot box twists and returns to something desperate, panicked. The rapidly dwindling cast of survivors cook up plans for dealing with a possessed/mutated crew member–this time a spacewalk to get the engines running for the alien ship they’re stranded on–only to find they cannot outmatch their enemy. Garth Ennis, as always, moves the script at a rapid clip, powering through exposition with sidebar translations met with gruff annoyance at attempts to explain the obvious. Facundo Percio is fine with the crew, faces all expressive with grimaces and forlorn head-hanging (the ship captain, despairing the death of a lover two issues prior); he stumbles, though, in the actual carnage. Aliens are shown with basic, impersonal designs, while violence is depicted in flat, static handholds, forcing Ennis to sell the moment with pained screams. Even mangled, still living persons do not appear to suffer. It actually works better to cut these bits out, altogether, showing the arrival of a horrible thing, then the reaction of survivors to what it does (crew member Malik cradling sobbing technician Nomi as everything gets worse). Perhaps a streamlined edition is in order, focused solely around humans struggling to process the inhuman?