Pulp #638

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Pulp #638

Hello again, everyone! Hope you’re all having a swell time – at the time of writing this, I’ve just emerged from an assignment-related social exile, and there’s nothing quite like a few days’ worth of writing (or, more likely, pretending to write) about risk management to make you long for a good comic. Luckily for me, this week’s book is a real doozy.

This week, I’ve picked up a book by one of my favourite creative teams: Ed Brubaker (Daredevil, Fatale) and Sean Philips (Hellblazer, Fatale). You might remember me talking about these fellas a while back – I picked up volume 1 of Fatale, wrote about it, and then subsequently went through the entire series in the space of a few weeks. While Fatale was a noir/Lovecraftian horror mix (and it’s a mix that works really, really well), Brubaker and Philips have chosen to drop the otherworldly horror for their miniseries The Fade Out.

Set in the dying days of the 1940s, The Fade Out weaves a tale of murder, intrigue and old-school hedonism in the glory days of Hollywood. After a night of heavy partying, down-on-his-luck screenwriter Charlie Parish wakes up in a house that isn’t his own, metres away from the body of his film’s lead actress, Valeria Sommers. Desperately trying to remember the details of that fateful night, Charlie follows any lead he can to find his friend’s killer, and tear the cover-up to pieces.

The Fade Out is a classic noir murder mystery, and the setting is absolutely perfect. It’s mind-boggling to think that this kind of nutty opulence (and the cover ups that inevitably followed) was par for the course back in the day. Brubaker has proven himself to be one of the finest noir writers out there time and time again. Whether it’s the depressing world of older Daredevil stories or the cosmic insanity of Fatale, he absolutely nails it. Philips is the perfect partner for him, too; his art brings Brubaker’s writing to life in a way that few partnerships have in recent memory (the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye run springs to mind).

In this instance, however, I have to put my fanboyish tendencies aside and say that despite high quality of the story, it’s not perfect. It’s pretty damn close, but it’s not quite perfect. While this sort of story inevitably takes in large cross-sections of society, I feel that in this case, Brubaker has made his cast a little too large. I found myself going back to the dramatis personae on the first few pages more often than I would’ve liked. It’s quite possible that every member of the cast will have an important role to play, but considering I got halfway through the series and some of them seemed entirely extraneous, it felt like the story could’ve done with a bit of trimming. That said, I’ll probably pick up the next trade in a week or two and find that everything is vital and that there’s some grand conspiracy going on. Come to think of it, that’s an awesome ending. Here’s hoping I’m right!

While I doubt that The Fade Out will be everyone’s cup of tea, as an unabashed fan of all things noir I give it a big thumbs up. I’ve you’ve read Brubaker’s previous work and enjoyed it, you’ll probably get right into this one!

Written by Alastair McGibbon