FATALE is always dramatic, but this issue takes the story -- and Jo's dark side -- to new heights. Our sweet, doe-eyed heroine, who always seems to be a bit of a victim, has a surprising sense of comfort and control when things turn criminal.
True to the femme fatale archetype, her darkest moments are revealed and relished only in close quarters. To the world, she's sweet Josephine -- or Jane -- and she's bliss. But in secret, when it's just you around, she lets you in on the notion that she's thrilled by the idea of robbing a bank. And when she robs that bank, she means business. And then -- when it's done -- she's back to her sweet self. The shift is seamless, immediate, and thoroughly well-scripted by Brubaker and Phillips.
Also true to her type is the eventual fallout, the tearful breakdown. A determined, cold killer one moment is a weeping girl the next; she's constantly in flux, because her dark side and her good-girl persona don't mix so well. Being Jo has to be difficult (though, perhaps not as difficult as being one of her men!).
The scene between Jo and Skip, all the way through that gutting, mascara-streaked panel is possibly one of the most honest, conflicted, and beautiful things I've seen Sean Phillips draw (and it's hard to isolate exceptional sequences from his body of work!). It's light on dialogue, but heavy on emotions, and the twists and changes in Jo's face are more evocative than most Hollywood actresses can manage. We also get to see a forceful display of Jo's power, and her capacity for self-preservation. Is it any wonder she's lived so long?
And, of course, in the background, we see snippets of other entanglements, yet to reach closure. Jo has reach, and it seems that everyone she's touched is either closing in on her or running as far away as possible.
It's great to see the full range of Jo's influence, but this issue in particular leaped from story to story with little transition. Juggling multiple subplots isn't easy, especially when they span different times and geographies, but a visual cue or two (caption box or otherwise) would relieve some of the "wait, when was that guy from?" on behalf of the reader.
It's hard not to crave more of this story, like Jo's men crave more moments with her -- in this regard, Brubaker and Phillips have locked us into FATALE in the most meta of ways. Every issue reveals more hooks, more drama, more danger, and even though the title itself tells us how things are going to play out, it's a captivating narrative with compelling illustrations. The multitude of subplots might make it a smart choice for trade-waiting, but I can't say no to each month's new issue -- you can't say no to Jo.