Love and Rockets co-creator Gilbert Hernandez has been quite prolific over the past several years, writing & illustrating a number of miniseries and graphic novels. One of these was Fatima: The Blood Spinners. Originally published by Dark Horse as a four issue miniseries in 2012, it was just re-issued as a collected hardcover edition earlier this month. So this makes it an ideal time for me to take a brief look at it.
On the surface, Fatima: The Blood Spinners is a zombie story. However, utilizing the trappings of that now-ubiquitous genre, Hernandez incorporates an interesting and bizarre blend of science fiction, horror, action, and conspiracy fiction. Set some time in the future, the backdrop of events is a plague of zombie-like creatures created by the use of an experimental drug known as Spin. The eponymous Fatima is a member of “Operations,” the government agency that initially developed Spin. Now that the drug has resulted in a zombie epidemic, the Operations agents have been given the dual tasks of shutting down drug dealers who are peddling Spin, and wiping out the monsters created by it.
Things turn out to be far from simple, though, as a web of intrigue becomes revealed. Fatima begins to suspect some of her compatriots of hidden agendas, and eventually comes to question the plans of Operations itself. Amidst the bloody violence & paranoia, Fatima struggles to survive against the combined menaces of an ever-growing horde of Spin addicts, violent drug runners, and treason in Operations ranks.
If that is a rather short summary of events, that’s probably down to the fact that Fatima: The Blood Spinners is not especially heavy on story. Hernandez, as is his habit in recent years, is not so much concerned with conceiving a tightly plotted narrative. Rather, he has concentrated on developing a character piece set against a palpable atmosphere. The result is that instead of truly delving into the back story behind the Spin drug and Operations, Hernandez’s focus is on Fatima herself, a cynical, tired figure looking back on her past, and how she quickly progressed from an enthusiastic recruit of Operations to her current hardened self.
Hernandez offers up something of a potpourri of tones within his story. After the first two relatively straightforward chapters of bloody shootouts with mobsters and monsters, the third installment contains some freakish sci-fi body horror that would perhaps make even David Cronenberg blink. In the concluding segment, Hernandez then veers somewhat into the surrealist territory seen in his “Fritz B-Movie Filmography” series of graphic novels, before ending on an introspective note.
On the whole, I enjoyed Fatima: The Blood Spinners. Hernandez’s artwork is as strikingly beautiful & gruesome as ever. In terms of his writing, he takes some of his previously well-trodden paths and then veers them into unfamiliar territory, creating an offbeat piece that has a genuine mood to it. This may not be his most accessible work, but it is certainly an interesting experiment. It’s good to see Hernandez stretch in different, versatile directions. If you are a fan of his previous works, then Fatima: The Blood Spinners is certainly worth a read.