Zeb Larson reviews The Fade Out #5…
The second act of BRUBAKER and PHILLIPS’ biggest hit ever begins with a bang! Someone knows who killed Valeria Sommers, but can our “heroes” find them without exposing themselves? And will their search lead them to answers they don’t want to find? A perfect jumping-on point for new readers, released the same day as the trade! And packed with bonus back pages articles only found in the single issues.
After what feels like a very long hiatus, The Fade Out is finally back. And thankfully, it’s back with thirty-two pages of content to allow us to cover some extra ground. This book is covering a lot of ground at the moment, and right now it feels a bit sprawling. That said, I’m more than happy to give it several issues to advance its various plot threads.
Charlie’s film is being shot on site at a ranch owned by Al Kamp, one of the co-owners of Victory Street Pictures. Because Gil is the real writing power behind Charlie, he has to come along and camp out in a motel to help out with rewrites. While sitting in a bar, Gil sees Al Kamp, the largely retired head of the studio having “problems” with a woman. Charlie has his own memories of him and Valeria running into Kamp in the woods in another compromised situation. Phil Brodsky shows up to straighten the situation out, and he sticks around to offer some wisdom for Gil underscored by a pair of brass knuckles. We learn a little bit more about Tyler Graves in the process and the reason for his lack of interest in Maya. Amidst all of this, Gil begins to think about revenge amidst
It’s sort of amazing that in five issues this book has managed to encompass a very broad cast of characters. If you started reading right here, you might come away from this issue thinking that Gil was the main character and Charlie was a secondary character. It begs the question: is there a main character? For that matter, what’s the long-term trajectory of this book going to be? Charlie’s quest to figure out who killed Valeria is proceeding very slowly, though Kamp’s general creepiness almost assuredly has something to do with it. It’s hard to imagine that Gil’s determination to get revenge will go smoothly (especially after the speech that Brodsky gave him).
I don’t usually write about a comic book author’s prose, but I really have to say that I love the way that Brubaker writes. He manages to capture regret, anger, and bitterness really effectively with the narration, and usually without directly saying what’s on the character’s minds. When Gil describes Kamp, he talks about how the rich are different until “they end just like the rest of us, sitting in their own piss, wondering where their time went.” Brodsky and Gil’s back-and-forth about Don Quixote equally has its own kind of poetry. These turns of phrase really help the book to stand out.
The fascinating thing about this book is that virtually all of the ugliness that’s depicted is the product of the moral and political censorship of the period. Tyler wouldn’t have any problem if he didn’t have to pretend for everybody that he’s heterosexual and Gil would be able to work if the government blacklist hadn’t targeted people with leftist sympathies. Even Brodsky admits he doesn’t really care what other people do, as long as they don’t make it his problem. Yet Brodsky is exactly a product of that system. If people didn’t care about public morals, Brodsky would be largely out of a job. Furthermore, that censorship acts as a shield for somebody like Kamp, who can freely act as a predator and count on the silence of people he victimizes. This issue felt especially like a criticism of morals censorship, but that might just be a consequence of writing about the ‘50s.