It's 1948. Charlie Parish, a screenwriter and "part-time reprobate," wakes up with a hangover in a bathtub he doesn't recognize. As flashes of the previous night's bacchanalia go through his dulled mind, Parish wanders through the abandoned bungalow, trying to piece together the bits into a coherent timeline. But he gives up when he spots the body of starlet Valeria Sommers sprawled across the floor. She'd been the star of the movie he wrote, the one currently being shot at Victory Street Pictures. The bruise marks on her neck make it clear she was strangled. In shock, Parish realizes he can't call the police (why not?). He wipes his prints off everything he's touched in the bungalow and slips away inconspicuously.
This happens in the first few pages of The Fade Out, a new comic book series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, the duo behind the fantastic hardboiled-crime-meets-Lovecraft comic series called Fatale. To capture the look of 1940s Los Angeles, Baker and Phillips hired a research assistant, Amy Condit, who runs the LA Police Museum and curated the recent exhibit of the Black Dahlia case. She is worth whatever they paid her – the look and mood of The Fade Out is like a trip in a time machine to a Los Angeles built by Chandler, Fante, Hammett, and Nathanael West.
In addition to the murder mystery, it looks like this series is going to explore the endemic corruption of movie studios of the era, anti-Semitism, racism, and the effects of the House Un-American Activities Committee on screenwriters.
The back of the first issue has some nice bonus material, including an article about Peg Entwistle, a frustrated young actress who committed suicide in 1932 by jumping off the 45-foot-tall Hollywood(land) sign.
My review copy was the large-format "movie magazine style" variant, which costs a few dollars more than the standard-size comic version. I recommend it, because the art is excellent.