If you like your crime noir with an extra dose of darkness, Ed Brubaker has you covered in The Fade Out, Act One from Image Comics.
The setting is Hollywood, 1948, and the cast of characters runs the gamut from sleazy studio security to Clark Gable himself. The story opens as our protagonist Charlie, a screenwriter secretly struggling with PTSD from WWII, discovers the dead body of the leading lady in his current work-in-progress.
What follows is a spiral of drunken blackouts, suspicious memories, and foggy familiarity. Charlie finds himself on the fringes of a studio-constructed murder coverup and doesn’t even know if he might be the killer.
Talk about a bad night.
The Fade Out, Act One ends very much on a cliffhanger, so I’m looking forward to watching Charlie try to unravel the mystery surrounding him. Brubaker’s scenes cut sharply, giving us just enough that we crave more, and punctuates each with smart dialog well-suited to the period. Coupled with Sean Phillips’ expressive faces and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s nostalgic colors, it’s very easy to get swept into the dreamlike feel of Charlie’s story.
True to the noir genre, period mystery and intrigue are the key elements of The Fade Out. Pepper that with a bit of sex, Hollywood scandal, and Communist panic and you have a read that rivals the level of entertainment of any current TV crime drama.