Fall In Love With Image’s Fatale

fatale-spl-625x333Love is in the air, folks.

Wait – that’s not love. Sorry, after so many Valentine’s Days, I have a lot of trouble separating the sweet scent of affection from the stench of commodified trash.

Is it just me, or do the salespeople responsible for V Day seem to be a perfect mimic of that girl/boyfriend that sits at number one on your list of shittiest people you’ve ever known? You know the one, sharing the uncoveted top spot with the crazy person who confessed their love to you after five minutes of conversation and smoking three of your cigarettes – possibly because, five years after you dumped them, they were that crazy person?

Some people just can’t handle rejection, but Valentine’s Day businesses seem to function as if they could never be rejected. They’re way too pretty and cool to be rejected, obviously: haven’t you seen the ads?

Advertisements with sexy girls in see-through nighties and skimpy Hallowe’en costumes that they couldn’t sell six months ago (how they ever thought a pumpkin could be sexy, no matter what time of year, is beyond me) occupy the same space with posters offering free trials of dating websites and psychological profiles intended to help you figure out what’s wrong with you so that girl that you have so much trouble talking to will finally smile when you stammer a joke (here’s a hint: write the joke down, deliver it to the mirror till you feel confident, and get a damn haircut. And stop drooling. It’s not helping).

And yet somewhere in this cacophony of “don’t you feel lonely?” and “we can revive your sex life” and “buy her a ring before she gets tired of your smelly feet and shitty puns”, we’re supposed to find that connection we’re all looking for.

You know what I’m talking about, right? That emotion that keeps us all paralyzed; the feeling that supercedes all others, making the worst pain bearable, giving even the blackest stormclouds some illusory silver lining; the ever-sought and rarely-discovered continent of Love, wherein lies our heart’s purest desire.

It’s a neverending quest for that elusive feeling, the one we felt long ago in a hallway in grade nine when that girl or boy stumbled and threw their papers everywhere. You knew right then and there that that clumsy, awkward girl with the freckles or boy with the braces was perfect for you.

LoveDrugThere’s a term for that feeling. Heroin addicts call it “chasing the dragon”. They say that your first high is the best, and the addiction stems from trying to rediscover the feeling that you first found.

Perhaps you think I’m too cynical about love, what with the nonchalant comparison to severely addictive narcotics, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am, at this very moment, madly in love with a beautiful, brilliant woman whose smile seems to brighten the world every time I see it. Sometimes, I find myself in the kitchen at work, chopping onions or some such monotonous task with the stupidest grin plastered across my face, just thinking about something she said or the way she smells or how I like the way her butt sways when she walks–

She’s reading this, so I should probably stop there. I’ve got her pretty convinced I’m one smooth operator and I don’t wanna fuck it up for myself.

My point, folks, is that the feeling I get for my wonderful partner and the feeling that this embarrassment of a holiday is trying to convey are not the same thing. One is the result of an emotional connection built over time, while the other is…

Well, it’s just a chemical reaction in your brain.

The fact is that women, as a species – and I mean that sincerely, because that slight chromosomal deviation separates our genders as completely as dogs and cats – are holding all the cards. They’ve got us straight dudes all figured out, and all that advertising, all those rings and sexy outfits and chocolates and dinner reservations – they’re just keeping us in thrall.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming women one iota for this. Their power over us is as innate as the queen bee’s dominance over her colony. Their shape is designed for our pleasure, their movements hypnotic, their lips oh-so-kissable, their embrace more comforting than the warmest blanket.

And the sex…

Honestly, I wish I was gay sometimes, so that I could maintain some modicum of intelligence when I see a naked woman. Gay dudes seem to be so put together, whereas I just turn into a puddle of bliss every time I see side-boob.

But then, I can’t imagine what it’s like on the other side of things. Always being hit on, dirty smelly dudes constantly eyeing your special parts, leering drunk losers slurring some pathetic pick-up line any time you grab a drink at the bar – or on the way to the bar – or on the way back from the bar – or on your way into the cab because you can’t stand these mindless drunken apes anymore.

Hell, it’s no wonder most girls are as sick of V Day as I am. If they’re straight, they’re definitely holding the shit end of the stick – and you can take that metaphor wherever you damn well please, you perverts.

In reality, Valentine’s Day isn’t about love, or lust, or even connection. It’s another day where the corporate candy-men can offer us something we can never have.

And isn’t that what we all want? Is it love we’re celebrating on February 14th, or is it simply our eternal quest for the unattainable?

Enter Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips. They’ve chosen to bring this very subject to life – but not quite in a way I’ve seen before. Through their enticing storytelling and unmatched artistry, they’ve created a comic every bit as irresistible as its protagonist.

fatale-coversThe book is called Fatale. The protag, a woman by the name of Josephine.

There is much, even twenty issues in (the newest just dropped this week!), that we still don’t know about Josephine – or Jo, as she prefers to be called. That said, there are a few things that are certain about her.

Number one: she is, as far as can be seen thus far, immortal. She has lived for at least five hundred years and she doesn’t seem to be aging at all.

Number two: she has a supernatural power over straight men, turning even the happiest married man into her personal slave within mere moments of meeting her.

Number three: Jo has been – and continues to be – chased by a demonic cult that has transcended the ages just as she has. They have been Nazis, religious fanatics, hippie cultists – pretty much any group that can fly under the radar and remain clandestine. Their leader is as enigmatic as Jo herself.

Lastly: Josephine has no idea who she is, why she can do what she does, or how to stop it. All she knows is that men will do anything for her … and to survive, she must let them.

The story is told in a noir-style, largely narrated by the men who have fallen under her spell, and each story arc carries with it the zeitgeist of the time it takes place in. Whether it is the hyper-seriousness of post-war America, the hazy drug-induced mania of the ’70’s, or the angst-ridden jeans and piercings of the turn of the century, each tale is told with true justice done to the period.

Normally, this might make a story choppy and hard to follow, but the constant is the art: Sean Philips’ shadowy depiction of Josephine’s world becomes the fulcrum from which the story tilts. Philips’ art is abundant with silhouetted scenes and whispers from the darker corners of the city, speaking of the secrets that lurk just beyond view, secrets that the reader all-too-often realizes would be better left in the dark where they belong.

For me, however, it isn’t the setting or the art that connects with me the most, even though they’re both breathtaking in their delivery; for me, the piece de resistance is the characters. Each man who finds themselves inextricably tangled into Jo’s mystery becomes a new narrator, and we see all of them not only drawn into her spell, but also fully aware that something is profoundly wrong. As they become more permanent fixtures in Jo’s life, the reader witnesses these men slowly losing their ability to reason as her supernatural desire brings them further and further away from themselves, and closer to becoming her slaves.

It’s like watching myself in high school all over again.

But as the mystery unfolds, as each of these men rejects their old life simply for the chance to be close to her, to feel her touch and see her smile – it steadily becomes apparent that Josephine wants no part of it. While most of us would relish at the chance to wrap our lovers around our finger as completely as Jo can, she is filled with sorrow with every man who crosses her path or meets her gaze. Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t crave the passion and desire that she exudes so innately. What Jo wants, more than anything, is to be alone.

It’s the one thing she’ll never have.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Until next time.

– Benjammin’

Ben’s Grim Corner

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About zahrahthustrah

I am all that I am and could be nothing else. Trust me, I've tried.

Posted on February 16, 2014, in Image Comics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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