So I haven’t checked in with The Fade Out as a reviewer since I read through the first trade/first act of Brubaker and Phillips’ latest serialized graphic novel—I know, I know, but it’s not a series in the traditional mien, and it is closing in on an ending—and I am pleased to report that it has not lost one iota of its quality. If anything, it’s gotten even better.
The last few issues have been a lot lighter on the Charlie-hunting-down-people storylines where he tried to penetrate his blackout on the night of Valeria’s murder with nothing but brute force. Instead, this issue focuses more on what happened just before that, and lets us live in the character of Gus, as well as Valeria. It’s the first real glimpse we’ve gotten into Valeria’s life since the beginning of the series, and rather than feeling tacked-on, it does the job of enhancing the tragedy, the hopelessness of the whole scenario. The issue ends on the best cliffhanger yet, and we’re left in that noir spiral, where everything is swirling the drain for our intrepid heroes, and the only way out is to go all the way down.
In the letters column last issue, Brubaker was careful to point out that this is not a comic series like most people think. With an issue of X-Men, the theory is that you should be able to pick up any issue and sort of make your way through what’s happening and enjoy it. The Fade Out is an elaborately constructed house, where each issue lays a piece of the foundation, or a brick here and there; if you just pick one issue up, you’ll see the wall, or you’ll see the foundation, but you won’t see the house. As such, I can’t really review this book as a standalone issue, but as the second to last chapter of a book.
Looking at it that way, Brubaker and Phillips have set up a hell of a finale. I don’t know if it will be a shootout or if it will be a quiet destruction of everything they know to be true, but either way, a lot of our favorite characters will not be making it out alive and whole. The major evil has been taken off the table, and now it’s just garden variety wicked men left to play. There’s a lot that seems like it will have to happen in the next issue, so I’m over here praying for a double-sized issue. Either way, I’m looking forward to being able to sit down and read this whole series in a sitting. It’s a perfectly built noir machine, and not having to wait for each new clue and step in the story will only make it more fun for me.
Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser have reached that kind of synergistic level that seems like it’s reserved for teams like Miller/Janson or Mike Allred/Laura Allred, where they’re completely unstoppable—it’s difficult to tell where one genius ends and the other begins. I don’t know what other harebrained stories Brubaker is cooking up, but as long as these three want to keep working together, they’ve got my money already.
I would say buy this book, but you’ll be lost. Catch up if you can, pick it up, wait for the trade, it doesn’t matter—put on your favorite dark and smoky jazz record, light up a cigarette and immerse yourself in The Fade Out.
The Fade Out #11 Writer: Ed Brubaker Artist: Sean Phillips Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 11/25/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital