Sunday, February 21, 2016

Brubaker's Digital Sale, Ending Monday!

As we are much more focused on traditional print than on digital distribution, we almost missed this, but Ed Brubaker has reminded fans of an extensive sale of his work at Comixology.

The sale is on trade collections and on individual issues for all of Ed Brubaker's creator-owned work that has been published (or reprinted) through Image Comics -- and it appears that the collections are at least as deeply discounted as the issues:

  • Each of the six Criminal collections are $5.99, 50% off the list price.
  • Each of the five Fatale colections are $4.99, 58% off.
  • Each of the first two collections of The Fade Out are $3.99, 50-60% off.
  • Scene of the Crime, with Michael Lark and Sean Phillips, is $6.99, 56% off.
  • And each of the first two collections of Velvet, with Steve Epting, is $4.99, 50-58% off.

The sale can be found here, but fans should hurry:  the sale ends at 11:00 pm ET, on Monday, February 22.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

30 Days of The Fade Out: Anyone Else But Me.

The penultimate issue of Brubaker and Phillips' Hollywood noir was released on November 25, 2015, following a three-page preview.  Being a Glenn Miller fan, I immediately recognized this chapter's title from that quintessential wartime song, "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me)."  In the letters page to issue #12, Brubaker subsequently relayed that "most of our chapter titles" were taken from the lyrics of songs from the 1940's:  we haven't yet attempted a complete list of song references.

As with issue #9, this chapter follows hot on the heels of the previous chapter, this time as the story careens toward its tragic finale.

The Movie.  There are no further developments with Shadow of the Valley, whose development recedes to the background as we focus on more murder and mayhem.

The Murder. Charlie and Gil drive to Ojai in the middle of the night, formulating a half-baked plan to get to the bottom of the murder and cover-up by abducting and interrogating studio co-founder Al Kamp. When they arrive, they find his screening room cleaned of almost everything, and they find Kamp himself dead in the bathtub, evidently murdered.  A mysterious armed man finds the pair, who escape the compound, but not before Gil is fatally wounded.

Who was the mysterious man at Kamp's mansion?  Was he with the Feds or with Brodsky?   We never get an explicit confirmation, much less a name, but the man appears to be one of the henchmen who meets with Brodsky in issue #9, who he sends to destroy incriminating documents from the original Victory Street offices.  In the course of the series, we find that Brodsky and his team are responsible for the entire cover-up operation, after Val's murder and Gil's provocations.

En route to the Kamp compound, Charlie and Gil talk things over in a rural diner, in a scene that reminds us of a scene (or two) in the first Criminal arc, "Coward."  Charlie mentions a fateful conversation he had with Val, about a week before her murder, and he's only now recalling everything after talking with Dottie about Drake Miller at the end of the previous issue.  It doesn't speak highly of our protagonist that he is so self-absorbed and his memory is so (deliberately) murky that he doesn't think of this conversation sooner.

It's also not to Charlie's credit that the house in that flashback is so familiar:  Val's hiding spot in Malibu was where he took Maya for their tryst in issue #7.

Leaving the diner, Gil mentions that Charlie has "three theories, and they're all full of maybes."  It appears that these are his suppositions:
  1. Drake Miller was leaning on Val, which explains why she was so distraught in Malibu. 
  2. Miller was also leaning on the studio, which explains why an FBI front man was able to pose as a producer on the studio lot. 
  3. Gil is right, that Miller, Kamp, and Val's murder are "all tied together, somehow."
In the final issue, we discover that Charlie came close to the truth, but he missed a key detail that proves to be devastating.

Finally, in the halls of Kamp's mansion, Charlie has another flashback, suddenly recalling another blackout moment, seemingly from the kitchen in Val's bungalow on the night of her murder.  In both the dialogue and in how the panels are framed, his conversation with Drake Miller is an obviously deliberate reiteration of Charlie's conversation with Miller at the end of issue #7 -- and that casts very serious doubt on Charlie, on the reliability of his memory and even his experiences.

At this point, readers might still be tempted to consider Charlie to be the prime suspect in Val's murder.  We discover soon enough that he's innocent of her death but guilty of other, soul-wrenching moral compromises.

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The Fade Out Act Three: In Stores Now!

The final trade paperback collection of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip's latest series is in stores now. Listed as Crime/Mystery, "Act Three" of The Fade Out collects the last four issues for the retail price of $12.99, ten percent off the total price for the individual issues.

Even more strongly than the previous volumes, the book makes clear that the monthly issues' back-cover artwork is an important part of the team's approach to telling this story.  On the back of each collection, we see a detail from the movie card for issue #4, of Val Sommers in Honeymoon in Blue.  For this last collection, the story ends with the "Screen Views and News" clipping reviewing the movie that was being produced throughout the comic -- Shadow of the Valley starring Earl Rath and "Dazzling new starlet" Maya Silver.

In one of the post-mortem interviews for The Fade Out, Ed Brubaker tells Comics Alliance that this clipping points to the aftermath of the story. the final issue, you have the review of the movie, so you get to see the end beats of Maya’s story and Valeria’s story, and you get a hint of where things ended up for people. Valeria’s not mentioned at all, as opposed to what could’ve happened, all these articles about this dead actress instead of talking about the movie.
That clipping is an appropriate epilogue to the series, sounding an appropriately ambivalent note for us readers who know so much more than the movie's general audience.


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Velvet Out This Week, The Fade Out Process, and More!

One of these days, we'll wrap up our extensive look at The Fade Out, but until then...

On Twitter, Ed Brubaker confirms that his other creator-owned comic arrived in stores today:  Velvet #13 continues the third chapter of the espionage tale, "The Man Who Stole the World."  We noticed that the two-page "trailer" for the Criminal 10th Anniversary Special was published at the end of the book, and artist Steve Epting recently treated Twitter followers with a fantastic piece of black-and-white art from the series.

Looking ahead, Sean Phillips announced that he received his comp copies of The Fade Out Act Three, which strongly indicates that the book will reach retailers next week; ComicList's latest extended forecast for Image still has a release date of February 17th.

Brubaker and Phillips have also given readers an inside look at their process behind The Fade Out, with the writer pointing out a page on the artist's blog, detailing the creation of a single page from script to the final artwork.  A monochrome reprint would be appropriately moody, but Bettie Breitweiser's colors are an amazing addition to Phillips' lines -- and scrolling through the full-page slide show of the artwork in-progress is kinda mesmerizing.

That's not the only webpage worth checking out this week:

  • Ed Brubaker recommends a great story from The Atlantic, about the search for a single archetype that encompasses all storytelling, excerpting John Yorke’s book, Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story.
  • I saw that The A.V. Club posted a lengthy essay on the road movies starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, a series of movies mentioned in The Fade Out, which we highlighted in December.
  • Finally, this week sees the release of the Coen Brothers' latest, Hail, Caesar!  The New Yorker has a lengthy, well-written review that makes me want to see the movie even more.  Fans of The Fade Out might find parts of the movie's premise familiar, with a studio fixer working in Hollywood in 1951, not unlike Brodsky in 1948 -- but evidently the movie is played for a few more laughs, and the subject of faith is apparently quite prominent. 
If there are more connections between the Coens' comedy and Brubaker & Phillips' latest noir, I might revisit the film here.

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