The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Because of its format some might say that this is fantastic crime comic. That’s true, but I’m going to take it a step further and say that it’s some of the best noir I’ve ever read which I’d rate right up there with the likes of James Cain or Jim Thompson.
Seriously, it’s that good.
It’s got the ultimate noir setting of post-war Los Angeles, and the plot involves a screenwriter with a drinking problem knowing about the cover up of the murder of an actress that the studio fixer has made look like a suicide. With that as a starting point we meet a variety of characters from despicable producers, publicists who put a glossy coat of paint over ugly truths, movie stars with secrets, blacklisted writers, commie hunting Feds, and even appearances from real people like Clark Gable and Dashiell Hammett.
There’s been no shortage of wannabe James Ellroys who try to do the old school Hollywood thing, and very often it feels just like bad actors putting on fedoras and trench coats so they can mouth clichéd tough-guy dialogue with a cigarette in the corner of their mouths. What really impressed me about this is that Ed Brubaker didn't fall into that trap but instead wrote an ACTUAL noir in which everyone is compromised, nobody is interested in the truth, and seeking justice is a fool’s errand.
Brubaker’s regular partner Sean Phillips does his usual brilliant job of making the art be a perfect marriage to what the story needs, and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser adds a richness to it that is way more interesting than just a black-and-white comic which is what lesser talents might have done for something like this. This collected edition of the entire run of the title also has some great extras including high quality reproductions of the amazing covers as well as some interesting behind-the-scenes features of how it was all put together from the researching stage to the writing and artwork.
I got this as a present last Christmas, and I’m ashamed that I let it set in a stack of unread stuff for almost a year before getting to it since it’s one of the best things I’ve read in 2017.
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