Brubaker and Phillips show they can continue The Fade Out on its path to greatness with a change of focus and exceptional world building.
If you’ve read my previous reviews of the first two issues of The Fade Out, I talk about how much I love the way this book is presented; the scenes feel genuine, the art creates a tone that perfectly matches the setting and characters, and damning secrets continue to build up in every imaginable nook and cranny. All of this praise continues to apply to this latest issue, but somehow it also feels fresh and different as we shift the focus onto Maya Silver, the replacement actor for the late Valeria Sommers. In earlier reviews I praised Brubaker for incorporating elements of his previous work, but for this issue instead of going the Criminal route to focus on different characters in different arcs, he seems to have taken a page from David Lapham’s Stray Bullets by focusing on different characters from issue to issue. This added an impressive amount of depth to the storyline, and provides us with even more secrets that are set to explode at a later date.
A central focus of this issue is the power dynamics of the three spotlighted characters, and Brubaker carries this out with precise, in depth characterization. Victory Thursby, as founder of the film company, is the supposed man in charge with the most power. Under him we have middleman and head of security Phil Brodsky, who blatantly yearns for more power and isn’t afraid to punch people in the face. Finally, we have Maya Silver, who is at the bottom of our proverbial food chain. She is an actor, but not the best – the only reason she has the role is because the studio’s first choice is dead.
Throughout the issue it becomes clear that the power each character had started with is shifting. Thursby’s grasp is weakening, and there are hints dropped throughout the issue that exhibit his inability to take hold his own authority. For example, in the beginning we are provided with a flashback where he is described as trapped, and near the end of the issue he finds himself in a situation where he’s more stunned by a woman stripping than she is of him emerging out of nowhere in her dressing room. Alternatively, each scene with Brodsky shows him pursuing the alpha male role at the studio – he fools around with random girls, he bosses others around, and as mentioned earlier, packs quite a punch to the face. All of this leads us to believe that his thirst for power will continue to grow and become quite an ugly scene.
Lastly, we see Maya’s confidence and power grow throughout the issue. She is no longer the backup actor, and needs to seize this opportunity to be a star. In the scene with Thursby, she is the one holding the control as she uses her body to intimidate him, and in the final scene she finds even more strength in knowing her ex-husband will be tortured. The way Phillips draws her face throughout the issue also changes. We first see her as weak, being pushed around and manhandled by her agent Tom; by the end of the issue, she is visibly stronger, and no longer afraid of the men that might hold her back.
Sean Phillips’ artwork on this book continues to show that is he is at the top of his game. Each scene is distinct, and shows great attention to the mood of the characters and the space they occupy. A notable example of this is when we’re introduced to Maya in her dingy dressing room. Her facial expressions show both disgust for the man harassing her, but also for the space itself and what it represents – a reminder that she was not the first choice. Later we see her feeling empowered after filming a scene; her face beautifully shows her satisfaction, and the art provides a wonderful background to her journey and why she has the right to feel this way.
One of my favorite aspects of The Fade Out so far has been Brubaker and Phillips’ ability to continue adding new elements while maintaining the core of the story. In the first issue, we’re presented with a murder mystery and a frustrated protagonist; in the second we’re presented with a handful of secrets; and in this issue, we see a shift in the power structures coming. The way each of these layers continue to build informs us that change is coming, but at this point it’s impossible to know how much damage will be done. I just hope this book is near the top of everyone’s reading list so we can watch it all come down together.
The Verdict: 9.5/10