Fatale (Vol. 5): Curse the Demon by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Fatale (Vol 5): Curse the Demon by Ed Brubaker In the fifth and final book of Fatale Curse the Demon — Ed Brubaker returns us to Nicolas Lash’s story throughout most of the book. The year is 2014, and Jo, our femme fatale, has decided to fight back, and with Bishop, or Sommerset, on her trail, it doesn’t take much to lure him in. The question is who is luring whom, because from Sommerset’s perspective, he’s the one reeling Jo in so that they’ll meet in a grand finale. The question, of course, is whose plan will win out — Jo’s or Sommerset’s. In noir, there really is no way to predict an ending.

When we left Nicolas at the end of the last book, he was captive of a strange man we eventually discover is Lance from the band Amsterdam. Lance has plans of a supernatural kind, ones in which a sacrifice is required, and clearly that sacrifice is Nicolas. Jo shows up right at the beginning and rescues Nicolas. But rescues him for what? Her own cult-like rituals, of course. So Nicolas has gone from the frying pan into the fire, or perhaps we might see it as simply a stay of execution. She takes him to stay with the mysterious Librarian, who, covered with tattoos, seems immune to Jo’s power. Nicolas, however, is still very much under her control.

In this volume, we finally get Sommerset’s background; we are told tales of his increasing depravity, his use and abuse of human beings while they live, and his utter disregard for human life in killing them for ritual sacrifices. In comparison to the God of Christianity, the Bishop’s gods are quite different: “The Christians were the worst,” he thinks, “with their martyr and his religion of peace. Peace was the biggest lie there was . . . Right next to Faith . . . His Gods didn’t require faith, they gave proof. Proof the universe was far more vast and cruel than anything he could have imagined.”

The art in this volume is noir-style as always, but Sean Phillips takes a stab, successfully, at some psychedelic scenes to represent the other layers of our world, the Lovecraftian universe that haunts ours right beneath the surface, where live the gods that the Bishop worships in his twisted ways. We see these monsters, or at least get glimpses of them through Nicolas’s visions via his contact with Josephine, and these images increase in frequency as we race to the ending, and what an ending it is.

The final book is a fitting close to the Fatale series — it’s grand and universal in scope, reminding us we are all longing for an oblivion that can be offered to us only through death. If that sounds a little pessimistic, and if you like to think you are more than a speck in a large malevolent universe, then the noir-Lovecraftian mash-up that is Fatale might not be the book for you. But for those of us who are fans of noir and Lovecraft, Fatale is one of the greatest works of art in serial comics, and Curse the Demon is the perfect closing. I can’t recommend this series highly enough.


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.