Rating: 5/5 – A Fascinating Look at 1940s Hollywood.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.
After a brilliant first volume that introduced us to all the characters and provided us with all the basics needed to move the story forward, volume two takes the story one step further by diving more into the main character’s motivations, providing clues that all is not as it seems, painting an almost perfect portrayal of late 1940s Hollywood. I was completely lost within the world these two frequently collaborating talents have created and I’m thrilled that there’s still plenty of story left to be told.
In volume one of the Fade Out, screenwriter Charlie Parish woke up next to a famous dead movie star Valeria Sommers. She had been strangled, but he had no recollection of how he got there, who he was with, or whether or not he had a hand in the starlet’s murder. While we get limited insight into main character Charlie Parish’s past, we know he’s a troubled writer who uses his blacklisted writing friend Gil Mason as a ghost writer in order to keep his job, pay Gil, and maintain his status in Hollywood’s unforgiving and competitive scene. Volume two picks up with the down and out alcoholic Gil Mason planning to get back on those that have “destroyed” him while Charlie Parish pursues a relationship with Valeria Sommer’s replacement, Maya Silver.
Brubaker’s writing is perfectly paced as he weaves the story in and out of Charlie and Maya’s blooming romance, Gil’s quest for revenge, and the greater story of just who killed Valeria Sommers. At the end of volume two, I feel as though I’m no closer to knowing just who did it. Sean Phillips’ art is absolutely stunning in it’s realistic approach and creating a believable cast of characters that I can still picture in my mind the same way I would after watching a live movie. Phillips provides a black and white two-page splash at the beginning of each volume with the cast of characters we’ll read about, and I only needed to look at it once since Phillips is able to give each character their own defined look, even the two blonde movie stars who look similar, but different enough from one another for me to easily tell them apart. All of these characters who Phillips have brought to visual life in the same way a great producer and director select their cast are all intertwined with one another and I’m so engrossed in how all this will eventually play out.
Brubaker has created a cast of characters that all have their inner demons. Fade Out can be depressing at times, but never unreal or unbelievable. The violent scenes are at times cringe worthy in their realistic portrayal, and the treatment of women in this 1940s male dominated industry is at times degrading and sad. It’s never for shock value, but to tell a story that left me feeling a wide range of emotions. This is comics at their best and something you should definitely give a try.
Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
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