Ed Brubaker weaves a tale of mystery, intrigue, and straight-up lies in the first issue of The Fade Out. The opening sequence is creepy as all get out and seems to bluntly imply Brubaker will be lying to the reader, but this truth does not really sink in until about halfway through.
The Fade Out #1 (Image Comics)
Brubaker introduces us to the main protagonist, Charlie Parish, as he wakes up with a massive hangover and an almost complete loss of memory from the night before. The reader is taken into Charlie’s memories as he attempts to piece together the previous night. The first memory he recalls concretely: taking care of a drunken friend, who is slumped over in an alley behind a nightclub. The sequence, taken as is, primarily seems to be focused on displaying the character traits of Charlie; however, Brubaker uses the sequence later on to throw in a nice twist and has the reader really wondering what is going on.
The main driver of the story is the death of up-and-coming actress Valeria Sommers. The slow-build Brubaker and artist Sean Philips use to unveil her death does an excellent job of building tension and creating reader shock right alongside Charlie’s own shock. The three panels before this realization have the reader moving their mind in a different direction. Philips does an excellent job creating a hazy smoke-filled memory focusing on the small details to create eventually a larger picture. Colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser helps highlight these details from Valeria’s deep red lips to the orange light coming from the cigarette in her hand.
The story moves in a number of directions from here and introduces a couple more characters. The first is Dotty Quinn, who injects some light humor after the grim realization of Valeria’s death. She creates a completely fake bio of a young handsome actor named Tyler Graves, and this is not the first one she has done for him, it is the second draft!
The second character Brubaker introduces is Head of Security Phil Brodsky a former police officer whose main job is to keep the studio clean whether it involves lying about Valeria’s whereabouts the night before or even bolder, outright falsehoods. Brubaker spends enough time on both characters to give the reader a feel for them and their place in the world of The Fade Out.
He also does an excellent job of returning to the main theme of the book: lying. Both of the new characters are introduced telling and contributing to large falsehoods as if they are common everyday occurrences. The lying is so pervasive in the interactions among the characters, by the end of the book Brubaker has the reader questioning what is a lie and what is the truth. He really hits the nail on the head when he brings back Gil to Charlie’s apartment and reveals the truth about their relationship, but is it the truth or just another lie?
Is It Good?
The Fade Out #1 is great; Brubaker tells a compelling and believable mystery-murder book filled with moral quandaries and an overarching theme of lying and how pervasive and commonplace it is in post World War II Hollywood.