Fatima: The Blood Spinners #4
Story and Art by Gilbert Hernandez
Edited by Diana Schutz
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: September 19, 2012
Cover Price: $3.99
So, have YOU been reading Fatima by Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets)? No seriously, have you been following this madcap adventure through space, time, and zombies? I know that zombie storylines have been spreading in pop-culture like… a plague that is unrelated to zombies. Let’s just say its spreading like a Contagion. I don’t actually think it’s necessary or wise to list off all the zombie-related media out there right now. I mean, really: when Brad Pitt is the lead in the $125 million dollar adaptation of a highly acclaimed zombie novel by the son of Mel Brooks, I think it’s possible to say that a saturation point has arrived. That The Walking Dead is a best-selling ongoing comic, and the most popular show on a cable channel that Mad Men also calls home, AND apparently has certain character prologues being novelized, means I think we can throw out ‘possible’ and replace it with ‘redundant’. When I feel confident that I can mention the zombie preparation campaign by the CDC without linking to it because I’m positive everyone and their unborn (zombie, obviously) children have heard of it already, well that’s just straight tautological. Wait, so why read this mini-series, which closes this month? Oh right, because its awesome.
Fatima sort of recalls the crack epidemic by taking the spirit of the hyperbole and rhetoric surrounding George H.W Bush’s initial War on Drugs and launders it with the backlash of conspiratorial allegations against the government for its involvement in crack’s spread. The fictional result is called “Spin,” which gives the user an incredible high, instantly transforming the most average person into a master of all trades for a few hours. But, much like Icarus and that damn sun, the hangover leaves the user burnt, sick, and quickly zombified. Yet people keep using, spurred on by false hope of a cure, or because they live in denial and think they won’t follow the same track.
Fatima, the titular character of the book, is an agent for the mysterious “Organization,” which is basically the DEA of the future. She and her crew begin the mini-series raiding safe houses of Spin, but as the civilization degrades, they start looking for alternatives to survive. At the end of issue two, the remaining crew goes into suspended animation in cryogenic freezers trying to wait out the zombie apocalypse. By the end of issue three, the remains of the team are dealing with a world that changed much faster than any of them could have imagined, and a rogue agent who sold them out. The plot would feel slapdash if it wasn’t so intentionally frantic. Gilbert Hernandez’s clear joy for the recklessness of his story-telling is apparent, and helps to gloss over some of the plot holes as the story speeds through each arc. So when I say that the final issue here is even more hectic than the ones before it, I mean it’s in warp drive, crash-landing into the conclusion without apology.
Hernandez’s simple, trashy style on this book fits the story’s tone quite well. Zombies don’t just get shot in the head: their faces explode in a campy blast of blood as the body – or bodies – is splayed out as if hit by a cartoonish bolt of lightning. Agents are dressed in go-go shorts or uniforms that look suspiciously like they are wearing underwear on the outside of their jeans. Hernandez is basically telling you not to take Fatima too seriously, just take the ride.
Like an overly ambitious B movie, Fatima tries to mash multiple genres and tropes together: zany science fiction used as a platform for vague social commentary, and as a crutch when a deus ex machina is needed; a taut conspiracy thriller featuring the always popular double cross, and a shadowy government organization that can’t be trusted; and an apocalyptic love story that is both genuinely sweet- as is to be expected from either Hernandez brother – and gore-laden. The effect is oddly mesmerizing, and highly recommended. Zombie culture is still reaching a critical mass in culture, and soon, but before you’re sick of it all, enjoy the camp of this book.