The more I read Fatale the more I am inclined to think this is really a story about how the power of religious ideology can lead people to make bad choices and how influence can come in many guises, often leading to painful endings for those involved. This issue (and the previous one), spends more time building upon the world of Fatale, introducing another previous incarnation of a woman with the same powers that Josephine has in the 20th century. What I am enjoying about these past two issues are the questions that Brubaker is seeding for the reader—perhaps setting one up for a wonderful bit of misdirection. One question I have now, having finished issues #12-13, is: Can one incarnation of the marked woman exist simultaneously? I have to believe the answer is no, and that it is somehow all tied to the mystery of the religion, or cult, at the center of the whole thing.
Are people born evil? I am an optimist and also feel comfortable enough to cast my vote that people (society/family) influence the development of a person; therefore, the idea of a cult at the center of the problems of Fatale is terrifying to me. You start throwing a word around like “cult” and images, to me at least, of the Manson family or wide eyed people alone in a compound come to mind. The other thing that comes to mind that I cannot shake, and maybe because Sean Philips lets us see the faces so often close up, are lonely people. These people are lost, or damaged, looking for something to believe in, and they are at some point in their lives that any variety of influences can sway them to not make the best decisions, and unfortunately that is where the cult comes in.
The flashback issues that Brubaker and Phillips are taking time to develop allow the reader to wonder at the relationship between the woman and this cult/religion. The Bible of the mysterious religion is the prize in issue #13—a prize we learn that has just as much power as Bonnie and her kind have over people. I like that the power that Bonnie and the other women of Fatale have is the counter balance to the power of this religion—a sort of negative and positive force that attracts each other and is destructive when it comes in contact. When we are introduced to the woman for this issue she lives in the harsh climate of 19th century America as an outlaw under the moniker Black Bonnie. Bonnie is not in fact a bad person and has struggled to survive in many places and spaces in society, but she is finally pushed to use her influence, her power over men, to help her kill and live the life of an outlaw. Brubaker has made a point to have the subtle theme of subjugation of women in the series, and I think he blends it well with all the other story elements to create a bigger picture that is comprised of small wonderful flourishes of thought as support.
Artist and co-creator Sean Phillips got a chance to play more in the shadows (an unbelievable strength of his work with Brubaker) with forests and creatures in the last issue, but here he displays how well he plays in the fringes of the light of day, in the open spaces of a desert where one cannot hide as easily. All of his ink and brush work is complemented by the color work of Elizabeth Breitweiser, who has come on board the series and has made it seem as if there was no change at all from the previous two arcs of the story. The color scheme of Fatale (and by extension the entire universe of Criminal) is a muted, slightly faded palette. Evenings are grey/blue. Daytime is not often displayed in direct light; the actions of this world take place in-between the waking world, the world of people who shuffle off to make a living in this office or that building. These choices by the creative team give Fatale that little extra to pull you in to a place that somehow is but is not the world that we have inhabited or do inhabit.