The first issue of The Fade Out was phenomenal (at least according to this reviewer) and united Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips once again for a noir tale set in 1940 Hollywood. So, when issue two hit the stands, I had to snatch it up. Lets get to the review!
Previously in The Fade Out: Hollywood writer Charlie Parish wakes up in the room of Valeria Sommers, an up and coming actress. He finds her strangled body, panics and flees, leaving no trace of his presence. When the story of her death hits, it’s declared a suicide. Someone is covering the murder up and Charlie wants to know who.
PACKED FULL OF MATERIAL
I’ll keep this review brief but needless to say, The Fade Out #2 is every bit as awesome as issue one. The grittiness, mystery and emotional punch are still present and issue two reveals some more of Charlie’s history. As it turns out, Charlie isn’t as nice a guy as we may have thought, though he seems to have good intentions at times. Brubaker does a brilliant job of blending in events of the time with his story. The Hollywood Ten affair and the blacklisting of actors and writers was a big deal at the time and ruined many people’s lives. Charlie’s friend Gil is one of the unfortunate to get named, and Charlie was the one to do it. Though Gil insisted Charlie do it to save himself, it’s a tragic event and one of the most emotional moments in the issue. There is more focus on the affect Valeria’s death is having on the movie and I found the actions of characters disturbingly real. Only in Hollywood would people care about how they look at a funeral. Brubaker plays with the genre well, throwing in the usual tropes along with fresh elements while giving a strong sense of realism.
Possibly more interesting than the actual story, and one of my favorite things about The Fade Out, is the supplemental material in the back. Each issue, a different writer contributes an article that goes in depth on Hollywood stories and facts. This issue focuses on “Fatty” Arbuckle, a comedian in the silent film era who was accused of murder. It’s a fascinating read and something I hadn’t known. The whole trial and event was tragic and it ruined Arbuckle’s career, even though he was totally innocent. With backup material like this, it makes for a hefty page count and readers can be sure they’re getting their money’s worth.
I FEEL DIRTY
Sean Phillips’s art looks dirty, and I mean that as a compliment. The setting is a different Hollywood than we know today and a much filthier place (though some could argue that filth has transitioned to other areas). This uncleanliness is rendered perfectly in the heavily shadowed work Phillips does. Elizabeth Breitweiser provides great coloring, with muted and dark tones that blend well with Phillips. The whole issue is cinematic, appropriate for a story revolving around film, and does a wonderful job telling its tale.
THE BOTTOM LINE: MUST, MUST BUY
I’m going to go so far as to say that The Fade Out is Phillips and Brubaker’s best work yet. The story is mesmerizing, packing emotion and mystery throughout. The Hollywood setting is brilliantly used and Brubaker mixes in historical events, lending a realism to the book. Sean Phillips provides beautifully dirty looking work, wonderfully colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser, and feels like a noir film. Issue one hooked me but The Fade Out #2 has persuaded me to stay around. This is plain good comics and I highly suggest you go buy this book.