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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