Hey everyone! Today, Rek will be reviewing Image Comics’ The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. This indie title is is currently up for around $9.99 as a paperback on Amazon and free on Comixology and Kindle when this post was written. So, let’s start talking about the noir murder mystery!
Last week, Seppin and I went out to a local book store and I decided to pick up this comic to expand my indie collection since it was only being priced at around five dollars and I heard good things about it. It was definitely something different from what I usually read, but I was a fan of Brubaker’s Daredevil run for the most part and Seppin has often talked about Sean Phillips’ work on DC’s Hellblazer. So, I thought I would give it a shot. And I was not disappointed!
I would also like to note that this book is meant to be inspired by stories from Brubaker’s Uncle who was a Hollywood screenwriter in the 1930s and 40s. I just found that tidbit out when I was researching this review and thought it relevant for a few of the points I will soon make!
The book has all the tropes of a classic noir storyline while also focusing on the film industry in Los Angeles, 1948, an era in which the government starts to crack down on Hollywood big shots and actors stir up a lot of drama and use false personas to get what they desperately want. For the most of the story, we follow Charlie Parish, a screenwriter inflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the second World War and wakes up one night from a night of drinking to find the beloved scarlet Valeria Sommers dead in the same room. While this does set up a basic murder mystery for Charles to discover the killer of an adored actress, the setting and entrenched history behind the time period shines through Phillips’ art and the in-between instances.
This story situates Charlies best friend Gil as a communist during the time of the Hollywood Ten which brings these men in coats often following them around. Then, there is the concern of demonopolization in the film industry that threatens the powerful pockets controlling both production and distribution. Greed is at the forefront of characters like Victor Thursby as he is often shown using his power and money over others. There is also this brief focus on gender norms and misogyny in this first volume. Valeria is painted as an angelic heroine for climbing through the ranks on the big screen and becomes a kind of martyr. Her character is directly contrasted with Maya Silver, a blonde set to replace Valeria after her death and who uses any and all of her skills to gain a role. Basically a femme fatale character type. Still, this focus on what woman have to go through in order to gain the status that Valeria does is almost overshadowed by the faceless women who stand at the sides of actors like Earl Rath and Tyler Graves.
There is just so much going on in the history of this piece and Phillips’ art is enigmatic and adds to the mystery at hand. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good mystery or if you are just looking for something different to read. I’m going to have to grab the next two acts when I have the chance to figure out what truly happened!
(How good is the story? Does it stand up to others?)
(Does it tell the story? Does it work well with the character?)
(Does this story need to be told? Is it helping the Character?)
(Is the character represented well? Does the writer understand the character?)
Total: 17.8 / 20
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