The Fade Out #1 is Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips first series as part of their exclusive 5 year creator-owned deal with Image Comics that sees them plough a familiar furrow in this 1940s set Hollywood noir thriller. But will The Fade Out #1 shine brightly in the murky world of noir or should it skulk back into the shadows?
The team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips is one of the most consistently brilliant in all of comics. From their early days on indie crime series Sleeper, to the sprawling modern masterpiece that is Criminal, via post-modern superheroes in Incognito and the recently concluded, time-spanning supernatural horror Fatale, they can do it all.
The Fade Out #1 sees them return to the familiar conventions of ‘classic’ crime noir, but this time set in glamour of 1940s Hollywood rather the grit and grime of the modern day. It seems unfair to describe The Fade Out as a return to form, as Fatale was probably their most ambitious project with a meandering multi-layered storyline that straddled genres and timelines with aplomb. However at times it lacked some of the focus that previous high watermarks like Criminal’s Last of The Innocent led us to expect from this pair.
Fortunately The Fade Out hits those heights and on first impression might even eclipse them. The tale of a struggling script writer, a murdered Hollywood starlet and a power crazed Hollywood mogul who wants to keep the cameras rolling at all costs reads like a James Ellroy novel, with a superb mix of fact and fiction. For the first time on a creator-owned project Brubaker is working with an editor, allowing him to focus on creating a drum tight script, instead of getting distracted copy-checking the back page essays, which helps him create a fantastically taut opening chapter.
It is not just Brubaker whose work is benefitting from some help in The Fade Out as Sean Phillips artwork is a revelation. With beautiful tight lines, a series of pencil sketch flashbacks and some stunning L.A. back drops, compared the looser approach of Fatale it is some of his best work yet. Whether this is thanks to historical researcher Amy Condit guiding his direction, or the result of a conscious shift in style, it is a move for the better and proof that Phillips is one of the canniest artists around. The artwork is further amplified by colourist Elizabeth Breitweiser who gives the whole thing a beautiful muted colour scheme that helps make the book feel like a classic vintage product from a bygone age, which is handy because The Fade Out is set to become a future classic and another modern masterpiece from this incredibly accomplished pair.