Set in early Hollywood studio system, The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and and Sean Phillips shows how easily the stars go out in a town where press is everything. After waking in the same house as the corpse of a beautiful blonde starlet named Valeria Sommers, hungover writer Charlie Parish flees back to his studio. He doesn’t know who has killed the starlet, but he knows that he cannot be connected to the crime. Though he knows for a fact she was strangled, he is horrified to discover that the PR department has made her death look like a suicide instead of a murder in the press. The studio decides to hire a young starlet named Maya silver who looks so much like the first starlet that it is uncanny. They use her to reshoot the film with only a short period of time left before the leading man is to be shipped off to another studio. Charlie must hide the fact that he is unable to write with the help of a drunk former screenwriter named Gil Mason, though the two are being torn apart by the truth of Valeria’s death.
The female characters in this story suffer greatly, but also show the brightest minds. Starlet Valeria Sommers death is brutal one coupled with an awful cover up made to look like a suicide. It will leave your stomach low in your body. However, It is the genius of press rep Dottie Quinn that allows her replacement with Maya Silver to be so easy. Dottie stages press sightings of Maya with a fading male star and in the process helps to create the stardom of one and rescue the career of another. Dottie is smart but in the cliche nature of many comics her beauty is hidden behind a pair of glasses. I’d love to see more of this character and have her strength come through even more.
The story is intricate and the art work worthy of classic noir cinema. I found myself covered in chills reading through Brubaker and Phillip’s work. This is only the first volume but I’m hooked. The darkness of the pages is speckled with brief bits of color that tell the story, but keep the book dark and brooding. Colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser has done one hell of a job. This volume also includes the original covers from the individual issues of The Fade Out. They are gorgeous to the point that I want to frame them and hang them in my office.
The Fade Out is now available from Image Comics.