The Fade Out, Act One

Summary: THE FADE OUT is an epic noir set in the world of noir itself, the backlots and bars of Hollywood at the end of its Golden Era. A movie stuck in endless reshoots, a writer damaged from the war and lost in the bottle, a dead movie star and the lookalike hired to replace her. Nothing is what it seems in the place where only lies are true. THE FADE OUT is BRUBAKER & PHILLIPS’ most ambitious project yet.

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The Fade Out, Act One, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips 8.0

I’ll read anything by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Though I don’t enjoy all their works equally, the quality that they offer is consistent and above par.

So when I discovered that they had another series, called ‘The Fade Out’, I just had to get my hands on it. It didn’t matter what it was about; I requested it.

This Eisner Award-winning limited series takes us to Hollywood, circa 1948, after the unexpected death of up-and-coming starlet Valeria Sommers.

It follows Charlie Parish, a screenwriter for Victory Street Pictures, who finds Val’s body and discovers a conspiracy to conceal the nature of her demise.

Paranoia grows as he seeks answers.

What makes ‘The Fade Out’ interesting is that it takes us behind the scenes of the studio system, which manufactured and churned out Hollywood stars.

I’ve long had a sense that there is a lot of grit behind the glitz and the glamour – something that was cemented when I saw ‘Scream 3‘, bizarrely enough.

But to read Brubaker’s take on the world beneath the artifice was spectacularly gripping, stripping away all my delusions with unexpected finality.

After the first issue, which sets the stage and introduces us to the key players in this tale, we’re shown a few different perspectives on the industry.

The most sobering one is seeing the events through the eyes of Maya, the starlet who lost the role to Valeria, and who ends up replacing her post-death.

It really makes you feel the desperation and ambitions of the many people who are drowning while trying to rise to the top; they’re lambs to the slaughter.

If it all feels very real, it’s likely because it’s informed by Brubaker’s own family: his uncle and aunt worked in the industry and regaled him with all of the dirt.

And though his story doesn’t revolve around real people and incidents, it alludes to them; it’s not uncommon for industry people to pop up in the book.

That alone makes Brubaker’s illusions seem more palpable.

Sean Phillips, as per usual, is the perfect counterpart to Brubaker in shaping this world and tale; his accurate but rough style of art adds character.

It took a couple of pages for me to be hooked, despite the setting, but once Brubaker got his claws in me there was literally no way for me to pull away.

I can’t wait to see what Charlie uncovers.

And who will fade out next.

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