“The Fade Out” is the new noir series from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It opens up with a recollection of the “phantom planes” over Los Angeles, the Japanese bombers imagined but never actually in the air, following Pearl Harbor. Hearing them up above became a nervous habit hard to break. And so the world of Charlie Parish, a schemer and a screenwriter in Hollywood, seems to be just one big bad habit.
Charlie isn’t your most reliable guy but he seems a lot better than most in his crowd. That said, the palooka is skating on some mighty thin ice. If there was just some way for his to extract himself from his dark and dank surroundings. But then this wouldn’t be noir, folks. This is Hollywood, 1948. In fact, it’s still known as “Hollywoodland.” That would change the next year. As far as significant change in people’s lives, well, that was a generation away. The studios ran the show. And when things got ugly, like maybe a rape or murder, there was always a clean-up crew.
Our friend Charlie, here, you may have guessed, is in the thick of one of these unfortunate events. Things weren’t supposed to get out of hand, get so confused. We find Charlie slumped inside a bathtub without a clue as to how he got there. But things have a way of coming into focus, sometimes all at once. There was no confusion over the fact that he was not in his own home. And there certainly was no doubt that Valeria Sommers, a rising starlet, was lying dead in the living room. Charlie is shocked but the wheels are already turning. He can’t call the police and he needs to distance himself from the scene. And there you have your perfect noir anti-hero.
Charlie’s behavior does not mean that he’s innocent or guilty of murder. It just means, for now, he’s a rat jumping off a sinking ship. Brubaker and Phillips create some of the greatest rats. We start out this comic with a run down of characters which is quite a rogue’s gallery. There’s Charlie and then there’s his pal, Gil, who Charlie betrayed to the blacklist. There’s a Clark Gable-like movie star, Earl Rath. Valeria, the girl everyone wanted to protect. Dotty, the girl in publicity who is naturally nosey. And the head of clean-up, Phil Brodsky, the studio’s security chief. A cast ready to intrigue you.
As usual, you’ve got yourself a poetic as well as provocative piece of noir when you deal with Brubaker and Phillips.
“The Fade Out” is available as of August 20. For more information, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.