Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Comics Blah Blah Comics: The Fade Out

Back in June, I wrote a post about the new series from Image, Velvet by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting. Since that time, my estimation of this series has not diminished. My only complaint is I wish it came out more frequently. Velvet#1 came out around July 2013 and we're only up to the 7th issue. Still, it's hard to complain about delays when the final product is worth it with clever scripts and gorgeous art. And speaking of the art, while there is no denying the strength and the power of Steve Epting's art, I would be remiss not to call out colorist Bettie Breitweiser whose palate of colors and hues are a wonder to behold. Boy, I wish she could color everything! And not just comics but real life.

Still, what is a comic reader to do while waiting for another issue of Velvet from Ed Brubaker and friends? Find another Ed Brubaker comic! And I've found a really good one!

I've been hearing how great the comics are that Ed Brubaker collaborates on with artist Sean Phillips. Projects like Criminal, Sleeper, Incognito and Fatale. Series that for one reason or another I missed out on. So when I had a chance to join a new Brubaker/Phillips project from the ground up, I picked up The Fade Out#1.

I would not call myself a film buff simply because I don't have the time to watch all the movies I would like to watch. But I've seen more than a few classic films and I've enjoyed reading behind the scenes material on the making of these movies, especially from the heyday of the Hollywood studio system. The Fade Out has Hollywood of the early 1950's as its setting and the studios sitting so confidently on top were willfully blind to the first cracks in the facade of their power. Some of the luster of Hollywood's golden age is starting to fade. 

And Charlie Parrish can see the tarnish on the glitter better than most. A disillusioned screenwriter who goes to one party too many and has one drink too many, he stirs back to consciousness in a bath tub in a house. Someone's house to be sure. But whose? As he painfully forces his body up and equally painfully tries to bring together his shattered memories of the night before, he realizes he has a worse problem: a woman's dead body. 

What follows is a decent into lies and secrets as Charlie seeks to hide he was at that house, the studio he works for is spinning a story on the woman's death that Charlie knows is not true but what can he do? And the secrets don't stop there. 

I picked up issue #2 and the lies and the secrets keep piling on, mostly, it seems on Charlie Parrish.

I guess the most obvious frame of reference for The Fade Out is Sunset Boulevard, a masterpiece film from director Billy Wilder that follows the twisted turns and looks into the dark corners of a Hollywood that deals in fantasies but can't handle its own truths. Likewise, The Fade Out is set against a backdrop where the magic of movies no longer dazzles for those close enough to see the wires.  

Ed's use of the time period is effective with subtle, almost throwaway lines that add details to this world of Hollywood. Alcoholism, changing sexual mores, the fear of Communism and the Black List, racism, drug use and more paint a time that is not necessarily pretty but it's very real. 

The art by Sean Phillips is astoundingly good, with effective uses of shadow and negative space. Characters are distinctive without being caricatures which is pretty handy as this is definitely not a cast that's going to dress in conveniently color coded costumes. And speaking of colors...damn! Bettie Breitweiser rocks the house again! (Seriously, Bettie: color everything!)  

So between  issues of Velvet, I've got a very strong contender in The Fade Out. And if either of them are late, I'm going to start catching up on the Fatale trades. 

It's a great time to be reading comics, ain't it? 

Hey, be good to one another.

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Carl Kasell

I was saddened to hear of the death of Carl Kasell, a distinctive voice on NPR’s "Morning Edition" and "Wait, Wait ... Don...