Sunday, January 24, 2016

30 Days of The Fade Out: Where Angels Fear to Tread.

(...and, we're back.)

Released on October 21, 2015, following a five-page previewThe Fade Out #10 marks a long-expected turning point in the story, in which Charlie and Gil finally work together to get to the bottom of the murder and cover-up.

The Movie. Filming has completed for Shadow of the Valley, and as the film moves to post-production, the cast and crew celebrate with a wrap party, evidently at a studio facsimile of the "mountain cabin hideout" at Al Kamp's old ranch.  The production had left Ojai early because of Tyler Graves' car accident: not part of this film's production, Graves is still a Victory Street contract player, so the studio ordered them to wrap the location shoot early.  That last day at Ojai, the director Franz Schmitt had gotten in an argument with the writer Charlie Parish -- Charlie had stonewalled to cover for his missing ghostwriter Gil -- and the old man got payback at the wrap party, starting and winning a one-sided fist fight with Charlie.

The Murder. Determined to learn more about Val's murder before confronting the studio bosses about the subsequent cover-up, Charlie convinces Gil to call Phil Brodsky and clear out his office with the continued threat of blackmail.  As the fight with Schmitt gave him a solid excuse to leave the wrap party, Charlie has an unexpected opportunity to confront Earl Rath -- an apparent mistake -- and he then searches Brodsky's office.  He stumbles across the security chief's thin file on Drake Miller and is then caught by Dottie Quinn.  He explains himself to Dottie, who tries and fails to convince him to drop the whole issue:  he picks up Gil, and the pair head off to Ojai and Al Kamp.

We learn an awful lot in this issue.

  • In Brodsky's file on Drake Miller, we find a photo of the group that left Earl's party for Val's bungalo -- presumably taken by Stevie Turner, since murdered as part of the cover-up -- and an innocuous head shot of Val Sommers, when she was young Jenny Summers, a child actor in the Krazy Kids films.
  • Dottie Quinn confirms that Drake Miller is working for the Feds, blackmailing people while hunting Communists.
  • Dottie also confirms that she was lying when she said, in issue #6, that she didn't recognize the description of Drake Miller.
  • And, we find out that Charlie cannot apparently remember what happened with Maya Silver on Halloween night just a few short days before:  shockingly, he doesn't remember helping her find her strung-out ex-husband. 

And, I believe this is the last time we see Earl Rath in this story.

One of the recurring complaints of modern comic books is decompression, telling too little story in each issue.  For too many publishers, the cover price keeps going up, the page count keeps going down, and the number of incidents in an issue continues to shrink.

That's certainly not the case with the comics by Brubaker and Phillips:  each issue is quite dense, and the benefits (and often the necessity) of rereading the book means that it's one of the best values at the local comic shop.  But, for The Fade Out in particular, the story takes its time as we explore the large cast of psychologically complex characters and vignettes that capture the corruption of Hollywood's own Gilded Age.

In the series' debut issue, Val Sommers is murdered and the crime is covered up as a suicide, and Charlie Parish tells his writing partner Gil Mason.  It takes until issue #6 for Gil to talk with Dashiell Hammett and begin provoking the studio's co-founder Victor Thursby.  Now, in issue #10, Gil and Charlie have finally teamed up -- and this is about the closest they get to classic detective work.

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