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In the last issue of The Fade Out, from writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips, screenwriter Charlie Parish and rising starlet Maya Silver form an unexpected romantic partnership. There was a question whether it was a one-time thing, but The Fade Out #7 answers that emphatically. Most of this issue is comprised of Charlie and Maya’s passionate weekend getaway, which seems to mostly involve drinking and sex. However, their new love has a sort of “doomed” feeling, which makes this issue pretty interesting even if it’s not breaking much new narrative ground.
A nice dynamic that Brubaker and Phillips established early on was that Charlie was very fond of Val Sommers, the murdered actress whose screen role Maya is taking. Charlie and Val had a real friendship that while platonic felt deep. So Charlie was initially a little skeptical of Maya, though she clearly won him over. There are some similarities between the two actresses, but Maya is much more worldly and resourceful. Charlie still has a lot of guilt over Val’s mysterious death, which may involve being present yet blacked-out when the murder occurred, and his relationship with Maya is now adding to that guilt. He feels that he’s let Val down, and he even has a hallucination of her during The Fade Out #7.
In part because of Charlie’s conflicted feelings, his relationship with Maya does not seem long-term. At first, I suspected that Maya could be using Charlie, but while that’s still possible, she does seem to have strong feelings for him in The Fade Out #7. With the specter of Val’s death hanging over them both, and Charlie’s numerous problems – the murder mystery, his secret writing partnership with blacklisted Gil Mason, and an increasing-evident case of PTSD from his time fighting in World War II – their lovemaking weekend is more of a diversion than a development.
So it’s not surprising when back in Hollywood, Charlie immediately gets into a fight with another screenwriter, who claims he betrayed Gil (not realizing that Charlie has been helping Gil on the sly). Although Charlie gets some shots in, he is also pummeled to the degree that he is woozy when confronted by Drake Miller, who Charlie recognizes as someone who was present the night of Val’s murder. Although this new development towards the end of The Fade Out #7 is exciting, it’s still open-ended enough that it’s hard to know exactly what will come of it.
If there is a fault with this issue, it’s that the weekend getaway between Charlie and Maya takes so much space in the issue. There are numerous sex scenes in The Fade Out #7, and while Sean Phillips is a good artist, I don’t feel that these types of panels play to his strengths. He lays-out the panels nicely but the figures look a little strange and the posing is a bit off. The fight sequence and even Charlie’s imaginary conversation with Val are better moments for Phillips.
In some ways, I could see why some readers would be less enamored with The Fade Out #7 than previous issues since the Charlie-Maya weekend takes up so much of the comic and it doesn’t actually develop their characters enough to warrant so much space. However, I believe the melancholy feeling from these scenes gives this issue a powerful effect. While I agree that this section could be condensed and more concise, I still find The Fade Out #7 to be a pretty good issue of a very good series.