You know the character. She's the beautiful lady with the mysterious past and plenty of secrets dressed all in black, who seems so vulnerable on the surface, like she just needs a strong man to protect her from all the creeps and lowlifes she's somehow gotten embroiled with. A strong man like you, maybe. And before you know it, one look into those deep eyes later and you're hers, and there's nothing you can do about it, and you'll do anything for her — no matter how vicious or corrupt or vile, no matter how low you have to sink. And before you know it, your life's in ruins, there's corpses piling up all around you, and you're sunk into a moral quagmire from which there seems to be no escape... all because of her.
And even then, you'd still do anything for her, just for a smile or a kiss or a touch. It's like she owns your soul. It's almost supernatural.
Only... what if it actually was supernatural?
Fatale is a comic book series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips which merges the Hardboiled Film Noir stylings of their previous work with Lovecraftian overtones. Spanning a timeframe from the 1930s to the present, it centres around a mysterious woman, Josephine, who appears eternally young throughout the story and seems to have a magnetic pull on any man who crosses her path and links to the underworld — only not just the underworld of Dirty Cops and hoodlums, but also one of mad cults and Eldritch Abominations...
Provides examples of:
- An Arm and a Leg: Nicolas very quickly in the story gets involved in an incident that leaves him without one of his legs.
- Attempted Rape: Skip tries to rape Josephine in the third arc. It doesn't turn out so well for him.
- Bittersweet Ending: Literally everyone who has ever encountered Josephine is either dead or mad but Jo finally breaks the curse and is allowed to age normally.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: Bishop and his minions are pure evil but Jospephine is incredibly reckless and manipulative about how she uses the men under her thrall to do her bidding, although she is remorseful about it.
- Cassandra Truth: Darcy warns the rest of the band Amsterdam that "Jane" is nothing but trouble and will lead them to ruin. She's not wrong. Jo having sex with both Lance and Tom drives a wedge in the group. Skip in a lust driven frenzy tries to rape her and she forces him to drown himself in their toilet. Wulf, looking for Jo, brutally murders Jon, Tom, and Darcy and then attempts to sacrifice Lance. Lance survives but is driven utterly mad into a rambling murdering mess that eventually falls into a multidimensional rift and is probably devoured by elder gods. Should have listened to Darcy, guys.
- Compelling Voice: Josephine's is strong enough that it can compel a person to suicide.
- Cosmic Horror
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Men will literally kill for Josephine.
- Creepy Child: Invoked; being exposed to Josephine's effect as a child appears to have more extreme results over time than being exposed to it as an adult. To illustrate, a boy who happens to have a chance encounter with Josephine when she takes pity on him after a childhood fight ends up growing up to be a crazed misogynistic serial killer. And her own son tries to rape her at one point. When he's eleven.
- Cthulhumanoid: Bishop's true form. There seem to be others like him as well, hidden in plain sight.
- Dark Messiah: Hansel of the second arc looks like the stereotypical image of Jesus. He's anything but.
- Deconstructed Character Archetype: Of the Femme Fatale character archetype. Josephine is supernaturally cursed to remain young, beautiful, and alluring, and is something of a Living Aphrodisiac. She actually hates the fact that men keep falling hopelessly in love with her to the point of self-destruction, since it means she can never have a fulfilling relationship.
- Dirty Cop: The first arc partially centres around a couple of corrupt cops who've gotten into something way outside of the norm. Walter Booker, at least, is a more nuanced portrayal of the trope than we usually see, and he started out with good intentions. The third arc involves a cop who moonlights as a Serial Killer, after being warped by a chance encounter with Josephine when he was a child.
- Eldritch Abomination: Whatever elder god it is that the cult serves.
- Fantastic Noir: It's set in the 1950s with a bunch of detectives investigating a series of ritualistic murders, with a supernatural Femme Fatale at the center of it who's fighting demonic eldritch forces.
- Femme Fatale: Deconstructed; Josephine's allure is decidedly supernatural in nature. She's also more sympathetic than the usual stock character in that she hates her life and the effect she has on men, but is unable to control it.
- The '50s: The first story.
- Film Noir: Especially in the first arc but present in degrees although the story.
- Framing Story: Nicholas Lash in the present-day interludes.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Hank Raines. Later, Lance and Nicolas
- Grand Theft Me: Bishop uses this to escape death after Booker mortally wounds him at the end of the first arc, using the body of Hank's unborn son as a vessel.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Booker dies ripping out Bishop's eyes, something that weakens and affects Bishop for the rest of the comic.
- Hollywood Satanism: Literally in the case of the Method Church who wear stereotypical black robes with inverted crosses and participate in murderous orgy rituals in the Hollywood hills and cater to the film industry elite's darkest desires.
- Humanoid Abomination. Bishop, and possibly Josephine as well.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Booker coughing is a sign that he's deathly ill. Of course, eventually he starts coughing up blood, so he better be.
- Imperiled in Pregnancy: Hank's pregnant wife Sylvia is brutally murdered by Bishop, who then frames Hank for the deed.
- Lipstick Mark: Both Hank's best friend and his wife notice that he's been having an affair because of Josephine's lipstick left on his collar.
- Mooks: Bishop seems to have an unlimited supply of them. They all wear Sunglasses at Night and look exactly the same.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Josephine experiences this a lot, particularly as the weight of immortality and the consequences of the many lives she's destroyed, accidentally or otherwise, begin to pile up.
- The '90s: The third story arc.
- Really 700 Years Old: Bishop and Josephine. We don't know exactly how old either of them actually is.
- Redemption Equals Death: Walter Booker.
- Serial Killer: Wulf in the third arc, who also happens to be a cop.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: One of the deconstructions, Josephine is unable to have a normal life because every man around her finds her so beautiful they must have her.