Image Comics’ release of the Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ title Fatale begins a series of stand-alone stories after wrapping its last arc.

The potent combo of Brubaker’s writing with Phillips’ cinematic artwork create another tightly crafted episode of this horror thriller by digging into the mystery of Josephine. Issue 11 explains her maddening effect on men by going into greater detail about the various men that have passed through her wake of death and misfortune.

The setting takes place many years before the last arc of Fatale, but has a familiar face for readers who’ve been on board from issue one (he’s at the end). In this issue, you get a young, confused Josephine who feels naive and full questions about her dark charms, which keeps this series fresh since it’s a jaded and seasoned Josephine readers have come to know.Fatale 11 Ed Brubaker Sean Phillips

Early on, another sucker by the name of Officer Nelson sits in a bar, ruminating on the dark things he’s done in order to possess Josephine. Brubaker creates an interesting paradigm in the kind of men that fall under Josephine’s spell by leaving readers wondering if it’s Josephine’s mere presence that corrupts them or if they always were corrupt.

At the same time, he writes these men in a way that makes it hard to have any sympathy for them. Is she a femme fatale with dark malice or does she simply uncover the hard truth about these men’s dark souls, revealing their true nature in the reflection in her eyes when they gaze at her?

While the jury’s still out on that, Brubaker provides some clues in the form of Alfred Ravenscoft, a reclusive writer that intimately knows the same nightmares as Josephine. His story recounts a journey he took as a child with his mother and a mysterious group similar to the Method Church of the previous arc.

At the heart of his story, which is drawn with eerie precision by Phillips, a dark energy in the form of a man named McVicar casts his shadow on a young Alfred who isn’t swayed by his evil magnetism. In this telling, you get a strong clue about Josephine and her power over men, which seems to hold no sway over Ravenscroft either.

Fatale 11 Ed Brubaker Sean PhillipsEarlier issues have made subtle inferences about Josephine’s true nature, but this issue spells out quite clearly that she’s no ordinary woman. In fact, she may not be a woman at all – only a force in the body of a woman that is locked in age old struggle with a dark force.

As usual, Brubaker shows off his ability to keep the story simple, but compelling. His dark noir puts him in a special place for comic book writers because he truly knows how to boil down a story’s essence like his predecessors in the genre. Give Brubaker some time, and the literary world will come to know his charms the same way people know Chandler, Hammett, and Ellroy.

Phillips provides storytelling art on par with guys like Gabriel Hardman – a place where capturing the right moments to draw in the story matter. The technical aspects of his work can be inconsistent in terms of precision, but never at a detriment to the storytelling.

Overall, the duo of Brubaker and Phillips have a winning combination that makes Fatale a series to remain invested in.