Zeb Larson reviews The Fade Out #9…
NEW STORY ARC. Act Three begins as the mystery heats up! NOMINATED FOR THE EISNER AWARD FOR BEST NEW SERIES!
Charlie and Gil are going to have it out this time around. Like the narrator reminds us, these two know each other well enough that they really know how to hurt each other, and a lot of buried wounds rise up to the surface in this issue. This is one of the best issue the book has had in a while, and it starts the third arc on a strong note. I will be discussing spoilers in this review, so do keep that in mind and stop reading if it’s a problem.
Now that Charlie is on to Gil’s scheme with Victory, he realizes how quickly all of this can lead back to him, and he goes to get a gun from his old army footlocker. When Gil walks in the door, punches fly and the narration goes back to their first meeting. In the pre-war years, Charlie was the standout writer and had an Oscar nomination, until Gil got the both of them in trouble with Bugsy Siegel. Their “bail” meant having to work for Victory for the next seven years, and once the war ruined Charlie and Charlie’s affair with Melba ruined Gil, everything started to fall apart. Finally, they pause and Gil explains that he’s stolen blackmail from Thursby. Hesitantly, Charlie agrees to help take him down.
This issue was a serious return to form for The Fade Out. What we learn about the blackmail and the studio isn’t the real meat of the issue, although Gil’s plan makes a bit more sense than it used to now that he knows what Thursby is afraid of. The best parts are the revelations about their past. We’ve seen that Charlie and Melba had some kind of history together, but the really sordid details weren’t fully apparent until right now. Likewise, the fact that Gil managed to wreck Charlie’s career early on gives them both reason to resent each other.
Is there meant to be a parallel between Gil’s situation with Bugsy and what’s happening now? Gil’s gotten them in serious trouble by rushing in before when his feelings are complicated by anger, resentment, and jealousy. Sure, he’s in the moral right, but that doesn’t change the fact that the studio is a powerful machine that will try and crush them. Apart from holding the evidence, they have no battle plan, and Charlie shoots down trying to take the story to the newspapers. I’m not at all convinced that this will go well, but good or bad, it has to shake out.
The action here gives the series a lot to work with for the third arc. The past two arcs could take a laid-back approach to the action as it laid the foundation for the series: context on all of the important characters, time inside Charlie and Gil’s heads so we could understand their motivations, and all of that tasty atmosphere and scene-setting. Now that has been done, I’m hoping this arc keeps up the high-energy pace.
What comes next? Charlie and Gil need to make their next move and try to put the photographs to use. The smart thing to do would be to hang back, gather more information and hope that Brodsky cools his jets, but I doubt Gil will let that happen. No, they’ll probably try to go for a weak spot. All we can do is hope that whatever “weak spot” they find is as soft as it looks.