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Review: The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker et al March 13, 2016

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews.
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Last year I got the first third of the Fade Out miniseries (12 issues reprinted in three volumes) as a free review e-copy from Netgalley. Recently I picked up all three print volumes. I’ll start by recycling the old review…

I’ve been meaning to give Ed Brubaker a try for a long time. I like noir. I just haven’t read a lot of it in comic format.

And The Fade Out is classic Hollywood noir in the vein of 1940s novels and movies like Steve Fisher’s I Wake Up Screaming and more recent takes like James Ellroy’s LA Quartet (kicking off with a reference to Joseph Moncure March’s The Wild Party). This is the start of a series that I’m definitely going to follow.

What we get here are the first four issues of Brubaker’s comic about murder, the Red Scare, and the Hollywood studio system in the 1940s. Nothing much is resolved by the end of this volume. To the contrary — new questions are being raised, and the scope of the story opens up. If the goal is to make you want to see what comes next, it certainly worked for me.

The story is definitely a modern, not contemporary, take on noir. The language and sexual content wouldn’t have come close to getting through the Hays Office. Readers who miss 1940s and ’50s noir movies but don’t like more explicit modern takes on noir might not care for this, but then they probably don’t read comics anyway. Speaking of comics, the art here is quite good, clear and capturing the look and feel of the era quite well.

It’s hard to say much more, given that this is only the beginning of what may be a long and complex story. But it’s a very strong beginning.

So, having read the whole thing… I loved it. It tells a complete story, albeit one that leaves some questions unanswered — explicitly, at least. As Brubaker’s pointed out in interviews, there’s a lot in there that isn’t handed to the reader on a platter.It’ll definitely stand up to a rereading or two.

The structure of the story is a murder mystery, but it’s made complex by the web of relationships between the characters, and more so by the fact that a couple of the key characters have a tendency to let booze do their thinking for them.

Many of the characters have more depth than might be expected. The art is clear and expressive, the dialogue sharp. I’d love to read more of this. But this is it, at least for the time being, so I’ll have to check out some of Brubaker’s other work.