Review: Ed Brubaker Embraces His Indie Roots With The Horror-Noir Comic “Fatale”

Review: Ed Brubaker Embraces His Indie Roots With The Horror-Noir Comic “Fatale”

In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on March 7, 2011.

Written by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

Fatale #3

What it’s about: Combining the look and feel of a classic noir story with the graphic unpredictability of a horror tale, Ed Brubaker’s Fatale is one of the reasons why indie comics have been going through a renaissance lately. The plot centers on a mysterious woman named Jo who looks just as young and vibrant in the present as she did in the ‘40s.

There's something unnatural about her, but Brubaker has only given us glimpses of what truly lurks beneath the surface so far. Best known for his work on Captain America and Winter Soldier, Brubaker has saved his most interesting sensibilities for Fatale.

What to expect this month: The mystery behind Jo begins to unravel as she lets her lover, Hank, in on a few dirty secrets. The script doesn’t completely bludgeon you over the head with what she really is, but one scene in an abandoned house gives us a pretty good idea what's going on here. This woman is pure evil, and Brubaker conveys all of her darkness without revealing too much too soon. This is horror and mystery done right.

This issue also gives us a look at the “present day” subplot involving Hank’s godson, Nicolas Lash, which is beginning to gain momentum after being ignored last time. This is where the humanity of the book comes in as Lash attempts to solve this decades old mystery that has been looming over his family’s head.

Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips again prove here that the best comics don’t need capes and tights; just good writing, some solid visuals, and a little intestinal fortitude.

The Manhattan Projects #1

What it’s about: If you kept at least one eye open during your high school history classes, then you should know the name Robert Oppenheimer. He was one of the leading minds of the Manhattan Project, the military think-tank that helped create the atomic bomb. Well, did you also know that Oppenheimer’s homicidal brother killed him after escaping from a mental asylum and impersonated Robert while working for the Manhattan Project? That might not be how your teachers explained it, yet that’s the way writer Jonathan Hickman is presenting the Oppenheimer legacy in the alternate history of The Manhattan Projects.

Here, historical fact blends together with old-school fiction to create a world where a deranged serial killer was put in charge of creating atomic weapons for the military. With his icy stare and Orville Redenbacher suit, Joseph Oppenheimer is what nightmares are made of, and he’s flying right under the nose of everybody in the government.

Hickman’s attention to detail and propensity for the absurd are on full display here as we get to see killer Japanese robots, some cannibalism, and a bizarre look at Albert Einstein, all within this first issue. This debut installment of Manhattan Projects makes the surreal ideas that Hickman brought to his work on The Fantastic Four look tame in comparison.

It’s not just the scripts that make this issue work, though; it's the art by Nick Pitarra as well. His illustrations have a Seth Fisher quality that blends incredible detail with some more animated elements. It’s the perfect complimentary piece to a plot that blends real life with fantasy.

There isn’t anything not to like here for fans looking for something a little bit different from the average comic book, just as long as you're willing to see U.S. history get abused like a toilet brush in the process.

Animal Man #7

What it’s about: Decades after his debut in the pages of Strange Adventures #180, Animal Man has been given a new lease on life thanks to the brilliant, but somewhat disturbed, mind of writer Jeff Lemire. Instead of having Animal Man (whose real name is Buddy Baker) fight off against some run-of-the-mill supervillains with all the subtlety of a punch in the head, Lemire is putting the character in a war against the very nature of life itself.

In Animal Man's first few issues, Baker is trying to fight off “The Rot”, a force of decay that can kill all living creatures. And because Animal Man gets his powers from the wildlife around him, The Rot can strike at the heart of what makes our hero tick.

What to expect this month: It’s road trip time as the Baker family and a prophetic talking cat attempt to track down Alec Holland, a.k.a. Swamp Thing, to figure out a way to defeat The Rot. But the antagonist is never far behind, as it's turning nature itself against Animal Man and his family.

Unfortunately this issue features art by both Travel Foreman and Steve Pugh due to some scheduling issues, so expect there to be some inconsistencies throughout. But Lemire’s scripts have been so fresh up until now that it shouldn’t be too distracting. Plus, this issue further hints at what's to come from the eventual Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover that's set to take place in a few months. Two of DC’s best book sharing one storyline—the comic Gods must be on our side for once.

Winter Soldier #3

What it’s about: When Captain America was revived after being frozen in ice during WWII, the only thing he could think about was the fact that his teammate Bucky Barnes died during the doomed mission. Unbeknownst to Cap, Bucky wasn’t dead—he was revived and brainwashed to become a killing machine for the Soviet Union. As the Winter Soldier, Bucky went on a globetrotting mission of evil by committing all sorts of atrocities for the communist nation before being returned to normal, thanks to Captain America and The Avengers.

Ed Brubaker has put Bucky back in the role of the Winter Soldier, only now he is an agent of the U.S. government where he is in charge of cleaning up the mess that the Soviets started years ago.

What to expect this month: As the Winter Soldier hunts down members of his old squad, he must also figure out why the Red Ghost and Lucia Von Bardas are trying to assassinate Dr. Doom. And just what are they doing with a Doom-Bot?

This series is espionage at its finest, and this issue features the return of Doom as one of the main baddies of the Marvel Universe. And if the sheer amount of supervillains and action don’t entice you, then perhaps the stunning art by Butch Guice will.

Batman: Birth Of The Demon – Trade Paperback

What it’s about: In anticipation of The Dark Knight Rises this summer, DC will be reprinting every Batman tale that comes close to looking like the movie. Batman: Birth Of The Demon collects all three parts of the “Demon Trilogy” from the ‘80s and ‘90s. These stories include Son Of The Demon, Bride Of The Demon, and Birth Of The Demon, and each story fills in another blank in the life of Batman’s most dangerous enemy, Ra’s Al Ghul, who, word has it, will play a key role in the upcoming film.

In Son Of The Demon, it's revealed that Batman had impregnated Ra’s’ daughter, Talia, and the news sends the Caped Crusader into a fit of madness. Which provides the obsessive-over-protecting nature of his personality. The story was supposed to be an out of continuity “Elseworlds” tale when it was first printed, but it has since been introduced into the main Batman canon after his son, Damien, reappeared a few years ago.

Bride Of The Demon is the least impressive of the three, but it’s still an interesting character study for Ra’s, who spends the story in search of a new heir. But it’s Birth Of The Demon that the book really shines. In it, writer Denny O’Neil recounts the origins of Ra’s Al Ghul and how his life has spanned centuries thanks to the immortal properties of the Lazarus Pit. With rich artwork by the legendary Norm Breyfogle, this is one of the more detailed and comprehensive Batman stories ever, even though the main focus is on the villain.

For anyone looking to fill in the holes in their Batman collection, or people that want to read something other than Joker stories, Birth Of The Demon is the perfect way to get insight into one of the most interesting and intimidating villains in all of comics.

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Tags: image-comics, marvel-comics, dc-comics, animal-man, winter-soldier, batman, ed-brubaker
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