I don't know if there are any superlatives left for the great work Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have done. Criminal, Sleeper, Fatale are some of the best crime noir comics the industry has ever seen. The Fade Out is turning out to be a worthy addition to their legacy as issue three demonstrates an expansion of the Hollywoodland studio system that provides all the pulp and drama you'd expect from this dynamic duo.
Eschewing the murder mystery of Valeria Sommers and steering away from Charlie Parish for a beat the spotlight falls on other characters. Maya Silver tasked with taking over the deceased Sommers has to grow up in a hurry and acclimate herself to her newly found stardom. It's a reflective plotline that examines her ambition balanced with the melancholy of what it took to get her there. She's strong but cognizant of the trappings that the seedy side of Hollywoodland entails.
Brubaker's narrative style flows smoothly as he describes the hedonistic adrenaline rush Mr. Thursby encountered in his younger days that still resonate with him now that he runs Victory Street Pictures. Phil Brodsky's drunk with power doing whatever it takes to "secure" the studio's interests all the while partaking in its endless supply of starving starlets.
This is the world of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and James Ellroy that Brubaker and Phillips relish. They not only pay homage to the dark corrupt studio system of 1940's Hollywood they carve out their own chapter of unscrupulous agents, powerful studio heads and the femme fatales that pay the price for fame. Its an exercise in perfect crime noir storytelling.
Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser convey not only great scenes in detail with muted colors and the appropriate shadows but the humanity and lack thereof of the characters. The desperation of Armando Lopez to get his wife back, the disgust in Maya's face at her agent, the devilish glee of Brodsky's interlude are all expressed in their faces, in their body language. The story is told by writer and artist in perfect harmony.
The Fade Out #3 continues to be an immersive world building tale you can sink your teeth into and encounter new layers of the mystery with every issue.