Writer & Artist: Gilbert Hernandez
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: April 2, 2014
Gilbert Hernandez has been digging himself into an increasingly weird place over the past 10 years. Yes, the “Palomar” stories he created with brother Jaime in Love and Rockets included surrealist elements, but not quite like this. Even as Marble Season and Julio’s Day garnered critical acclaim, Hernandez pursued a simultaneous genre track through Speak of the Devil, Love from the Shadows and now Fatima: The Blood Spinners.
Originally published in four issues by Dark Horse, the story is a classic post-apocalyptic zombie tale with a beautiful (and dangerous) Amazonian protagonist. In this variation of biter mythology, a drug called “spin” transforms humans into lumbering ghouls. The tall and busty (that much is consistent among Hernandez’s stories) Fatima works for the good guys of Operations, trying to find a cure and stop the spread of the drug. Much of the first issue consists of the bombshell striking heroic poses and happily murdering zombies with the aid of two very large guns.
Then things get strange. The good guys might not be so good. (Spoiler) Fatima and several allies put themselves in stasis and wake up seven years later to a new reality where the folks who are still human have degenerated into horrible creatures. Scientists want to repopulate the earth, but they do so with the aid of monsters — monsters who maybe aren’t so monstrous. There are also a few love stories interspersed.
The plot alternates between the normal constraints of the genre and sharp, erratic turns, as though Hernandez rolled a dice at times to determine the plot. This all makes for a good opportunity to revisit film critic Manny Farber’s distinction between white elephant art (boring, prestige stuff) and termite art (produced by creators uninfluenced by outside forces and, therefore, reliably weird and unpredictable). You can guess which category Hernandez falls into.
Surprisingly, reading Fatima is like watching Zardoz, one of the odder 1970s sci-fi films (both feature crotch-emphasizing costumes). You think you know where it’s going, extrapolating plot developments to logical conclusions, and then the invisible hand of the artist pushes the viewer out a window. It’s not always a pleasant experience, but it is a valuable one, and Fatima: The Blood Spinners is a more successful experiment than some of Hernandez’s others deviations into genre weirdness.