(Image Comics, 2014)
Written by Ed Brubaker
Artwork by Sean Phillips
Colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser
There are people who are good at a certain thing, and there are those who are able to perfect an art form. Ed Brubaker (need I list his accomplishments?), writer of great comics, Captain America, Daredevil, Fatale, winner of Eisners and Harveys…plural, has found his niche. His Comic Vine page lists him as appearing in 927 issues. The dude can write.
It should be no surprise by now, a full day after new comic book day, that his latest series with Sean Phillips (HellBlazer, The Invisibles, also Eisner Award) is a success. The Fade Out from Image Comics is a tribute to noir films, to old Hollywood, and to the crime stories that Brubaker has been able to capture so perfectly in the comic medium. Even in his Captain America work, for which I first knew him, embraced the old times (in that case WWII Cap and Bucky) and showed how those events affected what was happening to Cap in the present.
The Fade Out takes place in 1948 Los Angeles, at the center of the film world, Hollywood. Our hero (?) is Charlie Parrish, a screenwriter who spends much of his time associating with those whose mouths he fills with words, namely, the actors. Charlie is in more than a bit of a pickle when he finds the body of the starlet of his current project dead in a bungalow where he had passed out the night before. Did he do it? If not him, who did? The cast of characters reads like an almost-familiar film credit sequence. Earl Rath, the womanizer and leading man, Valeria Sommers, the sweet and somewhat naïve starlet, Dotty Quinn, the spunky P.R. girl, and the hard-nosed Phil Brodsky, head of studio security. These characters, in this story, could seem somewhat clichéd, but that is part of the charm of this book. These are the people that we love in these roles and that’s why Brubaker put them in there. He highlights the communist fear that drove much of Hollywood, a fear that came on the heels of WWII and the Nazi threat.
Sean Phillips darkly shadowed figures mimic noir film and bring reality to what could be, with different art, a book that is boring. Because of the style and devotion to the genre Phillips art helps to bring the story to life while letting Brubaker’s words do what they will. While I’m no expert, Phillips depiction of 1948 Los Angeles is beautiful and looks to be historically accurate.
It’s never a surprise when you see the names of Brubaker and Phillips at the head of a comic and hear from your fellow readers that it’s great. The best part is when you read it and see how good they really are, even though it makes the writer and artist in you want to throw your laptop into the street and drop your pens down the toilet.
The Fade Out is historically gripping and comically stunning. A noir comic in the style of films of the 40’s that looks like it came from that era.
Ps. – There is a fantastic special edition that has a 40’s cover, cracked and aged, which looks like an old movie magazine. It looks fantastic.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.