- Paperback: 120 pages
- Publisher: Image Comics (February 25, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1632151715
- ISBN-13: 978-1632151711
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.4 x 9.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Fade Out, Vol. 1 Paperback – February 25, 2015
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Top Customer Reviews
In 'Act One' there are so many familiar 'noir' detective plot twists, characters and situations that the solving the mystery is just getting started some 120 pages of e-content later. Welcome to LA in 1948 and to the world of Victory Street Productions, a second-tier film studio looking for a breakout star/film. Charlie Parish and Gil Mason are a scriptwriting/doctoring team who are tiptoeing around Gil's Hollywood blacklisting as a suspected Communist sympathizer and Charlie's post-WW II induced writer's block to bring in a paycheck. Their current project is producer Victor Thursby's vehicle to launch 'Val Sommers' (forgotten child film extra Jenny Summers). She 'has the works' to break it big and she has a past. Soon enough she turns up strangled. Charlie, in true 'noir' fashion, was passed out drunk in a bathtub next door when it happened. The studio decides that Val committed suicide and recasts the role with their number two original choice, Maya Silver ('the Replacement Blonde') as one chapter has it. The beefy head of studio security, Phil Brodsky is tasked with seeing that the cover-up works. When not typing script dictation from Gil, Charlie finds himself trying to remember what he might have seen during that drunken spree when he was with Val prior to her murder. We are not sure if he is seeking closure or justice or both. Already there are plenty of interesting characters and lots to find out. New challenges turn up 'on every page.'
Back to the art: Many of the panels are fully worked out rather than sketched in. Elizabeth Breitweiser is a first-class colorist and brings atmosphere to the drawings. One big panel shows Charlie on the street in the alley entrance to the walk-up where he and Gil write. LA is all around. In the middle distance, a cable car climbs up a hill and the urban scene is lit by a light or two and by a wash of ambient light. A reader can almost 'walk into' that panel and prowl the alley or stand, thinking, with Charlie in front of the door to the building. We get to see what a standard studio bungalow might look like where stars wait on the lot to shoot their roles. We visit a studio film set, as seen from some unusual angles. A typical fight scene is staged in a famous post-war Hollywood night club. There are a sprinkling of classic luxury automobiles that are lovely to look at and must have been fun to draw and color. The artists use a very effective technique in the 'memory' scenes in the story. The plot runs to the 'lurid' side of Hollywood life. More than any other Brubaker-Phillips novels there are panels of nudity and of explicit sexual acts. This volume rates high on prurient interest. Taken all together, this is a high-octane noir graphic novel with a complex plot and interest in developing situations and characters. It will more than hold the interest of adolescent and adult readers.
I honestly loved this story, so much so that I can imagine this being a successful TV series or movie. The characters are incredibly real and complex, and the author somehow gets that across in a really short amount of time with minimal lines. The craft of getting that right is such a high skill that cannot be taken lightly. The art is also amazing.
Ed Brubaker has done a fantastic job on his murder mystery, mid-century Hollywood drama. I can't wait to see more from him.
HEADS UP! The themes and content of this story is 18+. Don't let your kids read this.
“That was just how it was here. Something in the air made it easier to believe lies.” These lines appear on page two of The Fadeout Volume One, setting the tone and theme for a sharply written and evocatively drawn graphic noir story set in 1940’s Hollywood. The tone is also set by how our main character, screenwriter Charlie Parish, is introduced to us—hung over in a strange bathtub with little memory of last night’s wild party. Which is too bad, since there’s a strangled starlet, Valerie Sommers, lying just a few feet away.
Simon clears away any signs of his presence and leaves, but turns out that’s the smallest cover-up going on here. Soon the reader is following along a twisted path of drunken recollection and unreliable memories related by a guy who may or may not be the killer of a girl whom “He’d liked more than most of the actresses he knew. She was better than she seemed. Less worldly than you expected … the kind [of girl] you were supposed to protect.” A guy as well who suffers from PTSD, not to mention being a big fan of alcohol. But The Fadeout isn’t limited to Charlie’s POV or even his story, though it is the (so far at least) the main narrative.
Other characters, or perhaps suspects (nicely presented at the start in a starkly drawn black and white Cast of Characters) we follow either from their POV or an outside view include: Earl Rath — “Dashing Leading Man”, Gil Mason — an ex-screenwriter now blacklisted as a communist, Dottie Quinn — the studio’s PR girl, Phil Brodsky — head of studio security (a job he takes very seriously), Victor Thursby — founder of Victory Pictures who now feels “trapped” in his life, and Maya Silver — the “replacement blonde” who takes Valeria Sommers’ place on the picture.
Each of these people, in accordance with that early line noted above, is either living at least one lie or is helping out people lie (some might also be interested in ferreting out some lies). Even the poor dead girl’s tombstone is a lie, using her stage name rather than her real one. It makes me think of the line about “It’s turtles all the way down,” but for the Hollywood of The Fadeout it’s “lies all the way down.” As well, deceptions, plots, and conspiracy theories (and actual conspiracies) abound. Which makes the opening scene involving the paranoia over phantom Japanese fighter planes overhead during the war all the more suitable as a lead in.
The murder mystery, as well as several other mysteries, is thoroughly compelling, and Charlie’s sense of guilt over not revealing the cover up (the murder is labeled a suicide) adds a bitter overlay to the tragedy of Valerie’s death. The dialogue is spot on, more than a match for the plotting. And the characterization is rich, varied, and complex. A few of my favorite moments of character revelation are when Charlie’s interaction with the double playing the Invisible Man fantasizes about “becoming an invisible man himself . . . [the] relief to have a mask everyone could see but that made them all look away at the same time”; when Charlie realizes he only shared his horrible secret with his alcoholic friend so “He [Charlie] could be the strong one. The one who keeps it together. Another betrayal to add to the pile,” or when Maya, after Brodsky hauls away her angry –ex “imagines Brodsky inflicting more pain on him. And it excites her … She knows that makes her an awful person. She knows that. But eventually she sleeps like a baby.”
The art, meanwhile, is a perfect complement to the text, shifting color and sharpness dependent on tone or meaning. Charlie’s drunken half-memories are abstract images, while various black and white panels (a technique often used as background) depicting movie stills are crystalline sharp. Phillips’ art is also highly effective at conveying character at any given moment via body language, framing, etc. While this holds true throughout, his work with Maya is especially strong. For instance, when we first see her it is merely as a hand holding aside a curtain, as the reader looks with Maya’s point of view through a window at the casting line on the street below. Thus we see her as an outsider looking in, while the pane’s dividers look both like a movie frame but also bars on a prison. Several times she is pictured with her body hunched, her head looking down and to the side, a look of disgust or resignation on her face as she is groped and leered at on her path up to this moment of possible stardom. These moments are in stark contrast to the transformation she undergoes on set in her role, but also as she continues to play a “role” outside the movie set as part of her publicity. And throughout her section she seems to grow in confidence and strength, a confidence that almost literally radiates off of her.
A compelling mystery, rich and complex characters, sharp dialogue, art that complements and enhances the text. The Fade Out has it all, and I can’t wait to pick up the next installment. Highly recommended.