Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Fade Out, Volume 2: Act Two Review (Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips)

1940s, Hollywoodland, see? Up and coming starlet Valeria Sommers has been murdered, her death set up to look like a suicide - but her studio screenwriter friend Charlie Parish knows the real skinny! As Charlie begins putting the puzzle together, he falls for Valeria’s replacement, Maya Silver – gee, there’s more drama off-screen than on! 

Meanwhile, Charlie’s blacklisted ghost-writing partner, Gil Mason, sees the way Victory Studios Head, Al Kamp, and Kamp’s head of security, Phil Brodsky, viciously behave and decides to teach them a lesson. Victory Studios is going down… 

After the fast, tight story of the first volume, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips ease off the throttle in The Fade Out, Act Two. There’s no real plot to speak of as the creators are happy to explore the noir-ish old Hollywood world instead, revelling in its charm and seediness – but mostly the latter! 

It’s an entertaining read for the various small stories going on in the book. The closeted movie star conflicting with the studio over his lovers, the Dashiell Hammett cameo and the rising backlash against the blacklisting of artists, and the slowly unravelling mystery of Valeria are all very compelling. The old studios are run by mobster-ish-types who get to do whatever they want in town, the studio head Al Kamp is utterly deranged, and vice and violence suffuses the comic. 

Sean Phillips’ beautiful art is made even more stunning with Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colours (she also works on Brubaker’s other Image series, Velvet). He really brings old Hollywood to life and I continue to be in awe of his work in this series. 

Act Two is the kind of book that’ll read well in a collection, say of three or four of these volumes, rather than a standalone because this is a lot of middle-stuff – lots of development of characters and what’s already been established rather than plot. But Brubaker does it so well that it’s still enormously enjoyable even if you couldn’t call this a gripping read. 

Brubaker and Phillips are one of comics’ best creative teams and The Fade Out is one of their best collaborations to date. Get on the trolley with this comic!

The Fade Out, Volume 2: Act Two

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