• Fade Out, The: Act One



    Fade Out, The: Act One
    Released by: Image Comics
    Released on: February 25th, 2015.
    Purchase From Amazon

    Written by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Sean Phillips, the forty-page debut issue if 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 first 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.

    From there, we’re off as ‘The Death Of Me’ begins at the funeral for Valeria where Charlie tries to gauge whose grief is sincere and whose is staged for the press, particularly when he sees Thursby weep. Flapjack quips to Charlie that it’s ‘fucking bullshit’ that they put her stage name on the headstone and that her real name was Jenny Summers. They were close once, but that was when they were kids. Shortly after he spies Gil peeking from around a mausoleum – he shouldn’t be here. Charlie takes the drunk home while he remembers the past, where Gil was the pro showing Charlie how it was done, long before the war and the Hollywood blacklisting debacles. Now they need each other. Charlie gets the jobs, Gil does the writing and somehow they make enough money that they can both get by, if just barely. This doesn’t sit well with Gil’s wife Melba, who kisses Charlie on the cheek after he drops her husband off and he has coffee, Gil passed out in the bedroom next to the kitchen.

    On the set of Earl Rath’s latest movie, Morty is wrapped in bandages Rath should be wearing to play The Invisible Man but doesn’t want to be bothered with. Charlie envies the character’s ability to become invisible and fantasizes about it while Thursby and director Schmidt check out some of the footage that would be Sommers’ last. Even if they’re not happy with some of the scenes and need to do re-shoots, Thursby insists they have to release the film and that they’ve got twenty-five days to wrap. Flashbacks fill us in a bit on how Thursby came to be a picture mogul and we see some of Charlie’s “relationship” with the late actress interrupted by a phone call… he knows it’s bad news before he even picks it up.

    ‘The Replacement Blonde’ begins by flashing back to the fall of 1928 where Victor Thursby ‘did something unexpected.’ We see him drive up into the Hollywood Hills, ditch his car and his clothes and head to a ‘ceremony’ for The Divine Order Of The Great Eleven. While some involved believed that the priestesses of the order spoke to the angels, Thursby just liked getting drunk and laid – the ceremony provided him with an outlet for that, at least until the cops raided the place. Shortly after, he started his studio but ever since, his mind still wanders back to those nights in the hills.

    Meanwhile an ambitious young actress named Maya Silver prepares to audition for the part she already lost once to the deceased Ms. Sommers. Her agent Greavy gives her a pep talk of sorts, telling her that if she ‘did the thing’ she’s got nothing to worry about, the part is already hers. As she gets dressed she remembers the initial audition, meeting Valeria, and then she’s introduced to the PR girl Dottie and of course, leading man Earl Rath and then director Franz Schmidt and writer Charlie Parish.

    Greavy goes to meet Brodsky and interrupts him in an intimate moment with a young lady to tell him that they have a problem, the same one that they’ve already dealt with once. A bribe was paid but throwing money at this particular problem doesn’t seem to be working. Maya reflects on just how well her screen test went with Rath, Thursby thinks about his new casting choice, and then enters her dressing room but the encounter doesn’t play out the way she thought it would. When she goes home, she has a drunken, jealous ex-husband named Armando to deal with…

    When the fourth issue starts, screenwriter Charlie Parish is telling silver screen star Earl Rath about a date he may or may not be going on. It’s a break for Charlie, a relief after a long session of rewrites he’d gotten involved in with Gil… both of them still holding Val’s death near and dear to their respective hearts. By way of a flashback we learn that Charlie knew Gil’s drinking was going to become a problem but what right does he have to bitch when he can’t get his mind off of hot new up and comer Maya Silver, the actress hired to replace the murdered starlet?

    Back in the present, Earl and Charlie visit a photographer named Stevie. They’re there to buy some pictures AND the negatives from him. They split and head off to meet Dottie, who we learn is the woman who may or may not be Charlie’s date. All of this ties into how and Maya Silver is the hot new name in town and how and why Stevie is important to all of this but in the real world Dottie let’s Charlie see how the PR business works – he doesn’t like it. But at Stevie’s place, Charlie saw a man in a photo with Ronald Reagan who looked unusually familiar. But as Charlie and Earl mingle at the party and Earl learns that Charlie is friends with Clark Gable, through another flashback we learn about how they get to be friends and the scars that their service left on Charlie’s psyche. From there? Charlie dances with Maya and they find some common ground, Dottie gets upset and Earl bails on a very drunk screenwriter who manages to find the common sense on his own to switch to coffee. And then… something clicks. The guy in the picture he saw, Earl’s rambling story about commie’s and Regan and Stevie’s work… it makes sense to Charlie.

    This won’t end well.

    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 these first four issues, 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 the upcoming second act. The Fade Out is off to a great start. Let’s see where it goes from here…







    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      SO fuggen good. That team puts out some very impressive crime dramas.
    1. Clive Smith's Avatar
      Clive Smith -
      Quote Originally Posted by Todd Jordan View Post
      SO fuggen good. That team puts out some very impressive crime dramas.
      Right up my alley. I'm not familiar with their stuff but will definitely pick that up.
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      I wasn't either, but I read the series and now will be reading Criminal and Fatale.
    1. Clive Smith's Avatar
      Clive Smith -
      Same. Thanks for the heads-up, Todd.