A beautiful noir graphic novel set in 1940s Hollywood.
Charlie wakes up after having blacked out from drinking so much. He has a killer hangover, but ultimately has to get to work – the studio is still shooting their latest movie. As Charlie sets about getting to work he finds Val Sommers, the female leading lady of the picture, dead on the apartment floor. She has been brutally murdered. Fleeing the crime scene, Charlie heads home, only to find out that the studio have covered it up, breaking the news that Val Sommers has committed suicide. Charlie is racked with guilt, he knows a killer is on the loose, but how can he prove it without getting the blame?
Previous to this I had never heard of Ed Brubaker’s work, but the book caught my attention on Netgalley and I was instantly intrigued. The cover really stood out as something different, in fact I think it’s one of my favourite covers so far of 2015, just look at it! But the beautiful cover in no way distracts you from what’s inside the book. This graphic novel is fantastic. The plot is exciting, there’s so much going on – corruption and murder being just two of them. Hollywood is portrayed as a ruthless and seedy world, and I imagine that this is probably what Hollywood was like at the time. Although the murder plays a really intrinsic role in the plot, there’s a whole lot more going on – Charlie the writer, who saw so many horrific things in the war that he can no longer write, Gil – the drunk who has been blacklisted from so many of the big Hollywood companies, add a backdrop of relationships, PR stunts and media, and you’re beginning to get a taste of just how rich the story of The Fade Out really is.
Something that I really liked about this graphic novel is that it adds a real life element to the story – while there is no murder covered up as suicide (that we know of) that happened in Hollywood, the film is being shot by Victory Pictures – a thriving company at the time. It also features real movie stars from the time, like Clark Gable. It really adds a dimension of realism to the story, and it made me appreciate the plot all the more.
The thing about The Fade Out that I really enjoyed the most was the depth of the characters. Brubaker manages to fit so much into such a small space. Each character is dealing with so much – yes there is wild parties, drinking and seducing, but there’s also writer’s block, unhappy marriages and so much more going on in between. I think that is testament to how beautiful the artwork is, that so much can be conveyed in one panel. It’s wonderfully written, and makes for a very smooth, enjoyable read that you can easily immerse yourself in. A terrific, exciting graphic novel, with plenty of drama and intrigue thrown in too.