Review: The Fade Out #1
A noir film stuck in endless reshoots. A writer plagued with nightmares from the war and a dangerous secret. An up-and-coming starlet’s suspicious death. And a maniacal Studio Mogul and his Security Chief who will do anything to keep the cameras rolling before the Post-War boom days come crashing down.
Is there now a sub-genre of 1930s style noir crime stories centered around television/movie production? I have been following Satellite Sam on and off since it came out, though I am a few months behind on the story. It was a fresh take on the medium, plugging some new elements into pulp to make it interesting enough to pursue. It was kind of like The Maltese Falcon crossed with Mad Men. With the new Image series The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker, it would seem as though there are now two separate titles challenging for this one small niche.
Satellite Sam already broke this ground with a few of the notable clichés that one might expect. The main character/burnout chasing away his own demons in Hollywood with booze and women, the Hollywood big wigs more concerned with production schedules than the people that work for him, and sassy secretaries who are more capable than they let on. Clichés are not as bad if they are done right, and in the case of Satellite Sam, they exist as a fertile ground for a different take on this time and this genre. The question then, is there anything left for Brubaker? Certainly he has both the mainstream comic credibility from his work at Marvel as well as noir credibility from Fatale. In this case though, it seems as though something is missing, as the take on this specific setup doesn’t seem as fresh, especially for someone that has been reading Sam (which is not much of a stretch, considering that Image publishes both of them.)
The story progresses somewhat as one might expect with the main character waking up from a night of drinking without much of an idea of where he had been. Soon there is a discovery of a crime which changes the course of his life. In trying to capture the essence of the period, the presentation of this story does seem a bit too disingenuous in a sense. One of the hallmarks of Hollywood at the time was the fact that everything was hidden to some degree, including sexuality. When women’s hemlines were still at knee level, it was of course taboo to show even more, yet this story doesn’t seem to mind, even if we know that it was there. So instead of the nostalgic grandeur of the golden age of cinema, there are gratuitous scenes with naked breasted women or of women kissing, stuff that presumably happened at wild parties back then just as it does now, but also which doesn’t really help to establish either the story or the atmosphere.
I am tempted to give Brubaker a free pass here though. Admittedly this is the kind of story which might be well suited to the medium of comics, but it is seems equally to be a story that depends on a fair amount of setup before it gets going. It is not a superhero story where characters interact with one another in a superficial sense, rather these are honest characters being established. While it might not be up to the level of its predecessor from Image yet, it still does have some potential, and is probably worthy of being picked up by most people that are interested in crime noir.
Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips
Story: 8.2 Art: 7.7 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review