‘Fatima: The Blood Spinners’ - Advance Hardcover Review

Fatima: The Blood Spinners is a bizarre trip through a scary, violent, funny, sad, black-and-white future of humanity’s own making. Comics legend Gilbert Hernandez has created a grotesque science fiction tale of addiction run amok and insidious corruption in the hierarchy that is tasked with saving the day.  Gilbert, along with brothers Jaime and Mario, are responsible for the long-running, initially underground, and critically acclaimed series Love and Rockets.  He has also created a myriad of other books on his own, collecting a variety of prestigious awards along the way.  Fatima is my first experience with the family Hernandez in any fashion, and I can see how together, and on solo projects, they attract and maintain a solid fan base.

Here’s the scoop on the story: There’s this drug called Spin that, after one hit, turns you into a drooling, flesh-eating zombie with no cure in sight, but that still doesn’t stop people from taking the hit. The effects are slowly destroying the civilized world, redefining the landscape into a zombie wasteland.  Enter Fatima and her associates.  They belong to an elite, scientific, and militaristic contingent that is charged with maintaining order, exterminating current zombies, and working proactively to stop the spread of Spin and to secure a possible cure.  But, all is not as it may seem in the upper echelons of the organization, or even amongst Fatima’s peers.  This is where the story’s greatest mysteries lie, and their dubiousness and, at times, abstract nature make their unraveling unique and unexpected, and here and there a bit incomprehensible.  But, hey, the future can be a crazy place.   

Gilbert’s clean line work and black-and-white art is as crisp as it is gruesome, and there is a twisted type of beauty that runs throughout this deteriorating future, even in the malleable, oozing, sagging zombies that fall prey to Fatima’s relentless headshots.  The zombies’ faces look like masks, hanging loosely off their skulls.  The panels of the outside world are often filled with large amounts of white space, signaling both the vacuity of a society willing to destroy itself for a single high, and the increasing emptiness of a world that Fatima finds herself trying to protect.  This sparseness also shows Fatima’s isolation, both spatially and emotionally.  As circumstances escalate, things get weird, and I mean, “Whoa, I did not see that coming at all,” weird, and there are more than a few surprises, not to mention some pretty shocking imagery, even for a dystopian future.  But, this is part of the fun of Fatima, because Gilbert plays the story so close and quiet to the chest that you are never quite sure what may happen next. This instills equal parts hope and fear in you as events unfold, just as it does in Fatima.

Fatima: The Blood Spinners has action, intrigue, copious amounts of violence perpetrated both against and by zombies, and an incredibly lo-fi sci-fi style that almost gives it a weird sixties vibe.  This vibe works to create a dissonant, awkward, and almost sterile environment that feels very alien and, therefore, all the more futuristic.  I feel like things come together a bit too quickly near the end, but, plotting aside, Fatima soldiers on.  She knows her role and who she is, yet she is unable to change, even though it may benefit her and bring her some modicum of happiness.  This may make her somewhat of a tragic heroine, but in Gilbert’s dilapidated future, survival and happiness are not one and the same, and to strive for both may be to never achieve either.

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