by Matt Puddy
It feels like it was only yesterday that I was reviewing Fatale and yet here we are (it was two and a half years ago, but who's counting? BF). That series recently finished, but that hasn't stopped the combo of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (with the added talents of Elizabeth Breitweiser) reuniting once again to bring us The Fade Out.
Set in the Forties in an uncertain Los Angeles, life is struggling to continue as normal. Mandatory blackouts are still in force with everyone worried about the Japanese bombers that may, or may not, be right above them at night looking for targets.
Even with this threat there are still parties - life goes on - even the fictional lives that our protagonist Charlie Parish are responsible for. Charlie is a screenwriter working at Victory Street Pictures providing the world with a lighter outlook on life. It’s a relatively charmed life when compared to the normal folk of America, but it is all thrown into question after one wild night at a party when he wakes up in a bath tub.
By the looks of it this is not the first time that he may have found himself in a situation like this, however there is one keen difference. Whilst retracing his steps and trying to figure out where he was and what happened, the reader is introduced to all the main characters. You may already have an idea of the kind of people that you might be meeting, but this at least fills it out with their personalities. The only exception to this is up and coming film star, Valeria Sommers, as she is found dead. To make matters worse, she’s found dead only metres away from Charlie’s waking place. Did he do it? What happened? What actually went on?
So many questions, which are then added to when his brain kicks in and he realises that she was strangled. Was he really responsible?
It’s all so hazy for him, and made even more confusing when there is an apparent cover up over the starlet’s death, with someone staging it all to look like suicide. Something bigger is going on here, but what is it and why?
Brubaker and Phillips are obviously very comfortable working together, seeing as they have done so for about 15 years. This is also a strong genre for them, especially seeing how they both performed on Fatale and this is very similar in context but without the H.P. Lovecraft influence. Brubaker’s writing is strong as always and to be honest Phillips’ artwork is exactly how I expected it to be, though it is pleasingly tidier than his pencils on Fatale.
What I did like was the detail and attention that has been paid when making this. Not only was an editor brought in to keep it sharp, but the creative team also included a consultant to make sure that it all felt and looked like the Forties era, adding to the authenticity and the mystery surrounding it. Real attention has been paid to hairstyles, looks and surroundings.
Lovers of Brubaker’s work will snap this up in an instant. If you’re a fan of mysteries and period pieces then this is also worth a look. It certainly hits the notes that it needs to and feels fitting for the era and design.
Personally I struggled a little with it as it’s not to my normal taste, but that doesn’t stop me appreciating strong work.
Matt Puddy is neither dapper nor a flapper.