cover image The Fade Out: Act One

The Fade Out: Act One

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Image Comics, $9.99 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-63215-171-1

This noir graphic novel by the prolific and award-winning Brubaker-Phillips team (Criminal, Fatale) is set in 1950s Hollywoodland and follows the mysterious murder of Valeria Sommers, a young movie star. Screenwriter Charlie Parish goes against his instincts as he tries to unravel what really happened to her and the scandal at the rotten core of the movie studio system. Brubaker honors and echoes the noir genre without stumbling into parody. Third-person captions provide insight into despicably selfish characters that still remain relatable and sympathetic. The superior art by Phillips combines effortlessly clear narrative with hazy, half-remembered dreams. Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colors establish the mood and atmosphere of a post-war Los Angeles where danger waits around every corner. The “act one” of the book’s title accurately describes its major flaw: this is only the beginning of the story. Like a held-in breath, there is no release of tension, nor is the mystery of Valeria’s death answered. But it’s a strong beginning to a serial mystery that offers a fresh spin on the genre. (Mar.)