Comic Review: X-Men: Messiah Complex

Published: March 29th, 2008
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 344 Pages

Review:

This follows the major event in X-Men and Avengers lore that was House of M, which itself followed Avengers: Disassembled. While the Scarlet Witch is no longer the focal point here, the effects of what she did in the two previous stories is still felt and the central focus of this large crossover event’s plot. This is also an X-Men-centric story as it doesn’t crossover with Avengers characters or titles this time.

In a way this does a good job of closing out what some call the House of M trilogy but it also sets up an event that is a direct sequel to this called Second Coming.

The story is pretty good but it may be hard to follow for someone who just jumps in or for an old school X-Men fan that will be bombarded with a bunch of newer characters, as this came out when The New X-Men was going strong.

Overall, this is pretty good but the story jumps around a lot and if you don’t binge through it fairly quickly, you’ll probably forget some details. Also, some threads within the larger plot aren’t as great as others.

I didn’t care so much for the New X-Men Team and was more intrigued by what was going on with the main X-Men and the Marauders. Although, I had hoped that Mister Sinister would really get his moment to shine brightly and he’s just sort of there, leading the Marauders, and then he’s out of the story. Although, the twist that sees him taken out of the plot was pretty neat and it’s not something that I saw coming.

If you like classic X-Men, this more modern event will still probably resonate with you. It feels more like a ’90s X-Men event than something made within the last decade or so.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with:  Avengers: Disassembled and House of M.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Five: Curse the Demon

Published: September 24th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Bettie Breitweiser

Image Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

I was an immediate fan of Fatale when I read the first book and then that love just solidified as I read the second and third. I didn’t like the fourth story, however, and it took some of the wind out of the sails. By that point, I wasn’t sure how all of this would come together and end.

This book was a step up from the fourth but it wasn’t a satisfying conclusion. I felt like there was a lot of build up with several story arcs from different periods throughout time but now that this has wrapped up, a lot of it seemed pointless.

I like the character of Josephine and her strange powers. But I don’t feel like the backstory behind it all was thoroughly examined enough. This series presents a lot of questions but doesn’t do much in giving you the answers you want. Kind of like the television show Lost.

What attracted me to this was the fact that it was written by Ed Brubaker and had elements of classic film-noir, as well as Lovecraftian horror. If that combination doesn’t sound interesting on its own, then we can’t be friends.

The mystery is never really solved or unraveled in any sort of satisfactory way. I feel like this was just to show the wreckage caused by Josephine, mostly unintentionally, and didn’t have much else to offer other than really great art and cool visuals.

I don’t know, maybe I missed something but by the time I closed the final book, I felt empty.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Four: Pray For Rain

Published: February 25th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Bettie Breitweiser

Image Comics, 144 Pages

Review:

I have really enjoyed Ed Brubaker’s Fatale series. However, this was the low point of the series for me. Although, I still haven’t read Book Five.

It’s not that I didn’t like this story, I did, but it was lacking when compared to the books that came before it. Especially, the first two story arcs that were pretty incredible.

Maybe it’s that this has lost the film-noir touch that really made me fall in love with the first two stories. It’s not that this is completely different, tonally. It’s just that this one takes place in the 1990s, sees Josephine shacking up with a bank robbing grunge band and overall, just doesn’t seem to fit cohesively with the other stories. But maybe Book Five will somehow tie all these stories together in an amazing way. I still don’t know how this will all come together in the end.

The art is still great, the story is interesting but there really isn’t a single likable character in the entire book. Jo has amnesia and is pretty much just in the story to create tension and drama between a group of shitheads. There is also a murderous cop but he’s nowhere near as interesting as other antagonists in this series.

I don’t know, I was disappointed with this outing. Maybe Book Five will help this story make more sense but I feel as if it should still stand strong on its own outside of the larger context.

But for now, I feel my interest in this series slipping away.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Three: West of Hell

Published: July 9th, 2013
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Dave Stewart, Bettie Breitweiser

Image Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

This third out of the five chapters in the Fatale series is really cool. It doesn’t follow the story arc style of the previous two books, which showcased Josephine and her power over a lead male character, as the forces of darkness closed in on them. Here, we see Josephine throughout history, not knowing what exactly she is, seemingly immortal with the power to easily enchant men.

This is the shortest of the five books, as it collects four issues, as opposed to five. It is also very different in that it jumps around and tells different stories about Josephine throughout different times. This is really an origin story but you still don’t get all the details, just some necessary history.

The first issue in this collection sees her go to the home of a comic book writer who created stories that speak to Jo, as they reflect her experiences and what she sees in her dreams. Ultimately, she wants answers as to what she is. Then we go to the Dark Ages, see her burned at the stake and then taken in by a religious knight that tries to keep her out of the public eye by giving her a place to stay in his cabin in the woods. The third story takes place during the time of the Old West. The fourth and final chapter take place during World War II and sees Josephine in Romania dealing with occult Nazis.

Now I should clarify that the Josephine character goes by different names in different time periods and they could be different incarnations of the same woman or totally different women. We aren’t yet sure what she is and how this all works by this point but answers are certainly coming after this book. At least, one would assume. But all the characters are very much a version of Josephine.

I loved this book and I love this series. Ed Brubaker really wrote some marvelous stuff here. It’s just sad that I’m now more than halfway through the series’ entire run.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Two: The Devil’s Business

Published: January 15th, 2013
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Dave Stewart

Image Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

Since I really enjoyed Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Fatale – Book One: Death Chases Me quite a bit, I didn’t want to waste time jumping into the second of the five installments.

Like its predecessor, there is still a healthy amount of noir and Lovecraftian horror in this tale.

I really loved this book. It took what was established in the first, expanded on it greatly and upped the ante as well.

With this volume, you really feel connected to Josephine and her “curse” or whatever the hell it is, we still don’t know exactly by the end of this tale. We just see more history on how her appearance in men’s lives causes severe pain and human wreckage. You also still aren’t sure if she is wholly innocent, a victim of her condition or if there is something more sinister in her past.

This story takes place in ’70s Los Angeles and the antagonists are a Hollywood cult similar to the Manson Family but much more evil and expansive. In fact, the story makes reference to Manson and how even he was speechless in the presence of the cult leader in this tale.

While this is set further away from the traditional film-noir era than the previous book, it feels more in line with a true noir. The darkness of noir and horror merge seamlessly in this and from a stylistic standpoint, this volume is more fine tuned than its predecessor.

The story is dynamic, entertaining and you care about these characters, even though you know that most of them won’t live beyond this dark tale.

Brubaker has really found his groove with Fatale and I absolutely love Sean Phillips artwork.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book One: Death Chases Me

Published: July 10th, 2012
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Dave Stewart

Image Comics, 144 Pages

Review:

Ed Brubaker is one of the most prolific creators in comic book history. His work has been everywhere but there is something extra special about his personal work. While he’s penned stories for DC and Marvel for years, whenever he puts something out on his own, it’s a real treat for comic book fans.

Being that I also love film-noir and Lovecraftian horror, seeing those two things come together in a Brubaker story is really exciting stuff for me. Now this series has been out for a little while but I didn’t get my hands on it till just recently when Comixology was having a sale on Brubaker stuff.

Man, I’m really glad I picked this up, as it was a cool experience and maybe my favorite indie series alongside B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick, which also took noir, supernatural elements and mixed in a Tiki vibe.

Fatale is almost standard noir but it has a dark, gritty horror twist with some H.P. Lovecraft flavor. This comic series goes places that others don’t and it’s uniqueness is refreshing.

This first story arc, there are five total, introduces us to this strange world. We meet Josephine, a seemingly standard femme fatale. However, we learn that she is apparently immortal and that there are some dark forces at work that she is involved in. It seems that every man she comes in contact with has their lives ruined in some way. She has this magical ability that hypnotizes men into obsessing over her, even if she wants them to or not. She is pursued by a violent cult that worships cosmic gods. Jo has some sort of relation to these gods.

This story arc takes place in the 1950s but other stories happen at different points in time.

The stories of Brubaker backed by artistic mastery of Sean Phillips is just such a great fit, especially with the visual and tonal aesthetic of this series. They collaborated on other projects, all of which were critically acclaimed: SleeperCriminal and Incognito. I’m sure I’ll read through them after I get through the five volumes of Fatale.

I really liked this book and I look forward to what’s next. This story served as a solid introduction to a world I had no idea I wanted until I jumped into it.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.