Fade Out, The #1
Released by: Image Comics
Released on: August 20th, 2014.
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Written by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Sean Phillips, the forty-page debut issue of The Fade Out opens with a single page introducing us to six characters: Charlie Parish (screenwriter, part-time reprobate), Earl Rath (movie star, womanizer), Valeria Sommers (up-and-coming starlet), Gil Mason (one-time writer, full-time drunk), Dotty Quinn (publicity girl) and Phi Brodsky (studio’s head of security).
The first part of the issue, The Wild Party, opens with Charlie waking up in a bathtub haunted by the memories of when Japanese aircraft struck Pearl Harbor and how when those Zeros flew over L.A., his soon to be ex-wife couldn’t even sleep, even if he couldn’t hear anything. In the present though, Fall of 1948, he’s waking up in a little bungalow unsure how he got there or what he did the night before. Well, it turns out that he was at The Brown Derby where Gil was trying way too hard to sell Bob Hope on a script. We flash back to that night and this morning and learn that Gil and Charlie were once close friends but things are foggy. He got head from a dancer, he saw a nasty fight and he took a long walk with a lady but now there’s lipstick on his mirror and he smells of Winstons. Turns out he’s in Val’s house and Val is very much a corpse this fine summer morning. She was strangled while he slept in the other room and now his picture is in trouble because she was the lead actress. Charlie’s no fool. He knows he needs to get rid of his tracks so it’s as if he was never there and he does just that.
Meanwhile, at the studio, Dotty is writing up a fake bio for an actor when she gets a call from Brodsky – he never calls with good news. Cut to Charlie passed out on a coach, Dotty waking him up to tell him what he already knows. On set the director is wanting to shoot around Valeria’s scenes but the late actress’ co-star, Earl Rath, is having none of that. Dotty takes Charlie to Brodsky so everyone can make sure their ducks are in a row. This has something to do with Rath’s party, The ‘official word’ is that Val wasn’t there that night even though she was and in attendance with a black guy known as Flapjack no less. He got his ass handed to him for sleeping with some important wives, but when the cops show up and Brodsky has to blow Charlie off, he gets a look at the police report he left on his desk and sees that through his connections Brodsky has made Val’s death into a suicide. But Charlie, he had a thing for Val, she was different. He goes home and find’s Gil passed out on his floor. They get to talking and…. maybe Charlie messed up.
This one ends on one Hell of a cliffhanger but the setup is so God damn beautiful you won’t mind. Brubaker writes this one for an adult audience but also manages to keep it entirely within the confines of traditional classic era film noir. The early language and discussion (and portrayal) of violence and sexuality never cross the line into trashy territory no matter how trashy the deeds at hand may be while the snappy dialogue and witty narration from Charlie (who seems to be the focal point, at least in this first issue) give us just as much information as we need to want to see how this mystery is going to play out.
Phillips’ art is pretty much the perfect complement to Brubaker’s hard edged script. It’s realistic enough to work in the context of the story and never too exaggerated but at the same time it feels very pulpy, very comic book-ish in the best possible way. These two have worked together before and so they obviously play to one another’s strengths, while colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser (who worked with them previously on Fatale) really brings a lot of mood and atmosphere to Phillips’ illustrative work. Together they, through this first issue, take us headfirst into the underbelly of a far less politically correct Hollywood than the machine that exists in that part of Los Angeles today. People are judged on skin color, race, orientation, religion and what have you and the guys who run the show are completely okay with that. It’s the perfect time and place to stage a dirty mystery like this one and if the quality of this first issue is anything to go off of (and obviously it is), we’re likely in for a really gripping ride in future issues.
The Fade Out is off to a great start. Let’s see where it goes from here… and at the end of the issue, be sure to read the essay from Devin Faraci entitled The Lonesome Death Of Peg Entwhistle. It's a very fitting inclusion here.