Review: The Fade Out #3

So The Fade Out continues to expand. Issue number two indicated that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips would be taking their time with this series, showing many sides to the same story, and this issue doesn’t disappoint on that front.

This issue takes a break from Charlie Parish, the screenwriter (who might or might not still be the main character), to focus on two other characters: Mr. Thursby and Maya Silver. Mr. Thursby is the head of the studio employing all of the other characters and we learn quite a bit about him. In fact, we learn some pretty deep and dark secrets about him that may well have an effect on the plot as a whole.

Apparently, back in the 1920’s he, for several weeks, lived in a pagan commune where, as Brubaker puts it, the “sex and booze flowed freely.” It turns out that Thursby hasn’t been able to get that experience out of his head ever since then, and his addiction to sex with (and/or power over) women has led to him building a secret corridor from his office that runs behind every female star’s dressing, with a door leading into each through the closet. That seems like a very important detail: it implies that he regularly visits the starlets (which he did in this issue), but it also tells the audience that there is a way for someone in the know to enter and exit these dressing rooms unseen. That seems like an important detail that might very likely come up again in the plot. A plot that has already featured one dead movie star, mind you, and could possibly feature more.

The majority of the issue focuses on Maya Silver, the woman brought in to replace the dead Valeria Sommers. We see her first scene with Early Rath. We see how she actually had met Valeria Sommers before. We see that she used to be married to a Hispanic man but gave that up to be a star, and we learn that she got some help in doing that by the husband himself, who took a $20,000 payment to leave his wife alone. We learn that she’s had to do some pretty sordid things to get to the top, and that she might have more of an appetite for violence than she once thought. After learning more about her, she seems like the perfect beginning of a classic femme fatale, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Maya ended up having a role in any future murders or schemes.

Again, though, this issue, in throwing a wide net and fleshing out the world, the murder plot which gave the debut issue so much agency, is all but forgotten. It’s a genuine pleasure to read such a well crafted comic, but for those of you interested more in the murder mystery than in the setting, tone, and world building, I have a feeling that this story might read a little bit better in a collected form.

Speaking of setting and tone, I have to once again give praise to Phillips’ art. After having read Fatale and Criminal and now The Fade Out, I’m running out of ways to compliment his work. It’s really quite sublime. The aspect of his work which stood out to me in this particular issue was the inking. For example, in the scenes set actually on the movie studio or outside, the line work is precise and expertly inked, giving the figures definition and clarity, which helps in the reading of facial expressions and body language. In scenes set in the dark, in closets or the back ways of the studio, entire sections of the page are awash in shadow and darkness, not causing confusion at all, but lending the characters and settings a slightly muffled sense of existence that nicely fits with the noir feel. The scene with Greavey (Maya’s talent agent) and Brodsky (studio head of security) is a particularly good example, and perhaps the finest moment in the issue. Furthermore, he continues to experiment with different art styles in this comic. There are several pages in which we read narration from Maya and in the foreground the pages show Maya undressing from the movie shoot, while the background (in a much sketchier penciling style) shows her history as an aspiring actress, not all of it pretty. It’s deviations in the art like that which really make this comic unique.

Issue number four can’t come soon enough, and be it either more information on the murder or further character/world building, I am totally on board.

 Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips

Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.