Ed Brubaker

Fade-Out

The Fade Out 3 (November 2014)

The Fade Out #3

Brubaker switches protagonists for the issue–with the normal, screenwriter protagonist basically getting a cameo–and moves over to the actress replacing the dead actress in the movie.

It’s a phenomenal comic book, showing more ingenuity from scene to scene than anything Brubaker’s done in The Fade Out in a while. Than he’s done in anything in a while, actually–he has a number of great surprises in the issue and they’re just details he’s revealing. They’re not flashy, they’re just great writing.

The issue just covers this actress on her last screen test, with Brubaker using slight expository dialogue to imply her history and her relationships–not to mention how gently he moves along the main plot.

Brubaker’s really good at these done-in-one issues set amid his bigger stories. Or maybe Fade Out is going just get better. Regardless, this issue’s great work from Brubaker and Phillips.

A 

CREDITS

The Replacement Blonde; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

velvet

Velvet 8 (November 2014)

Velvet #8

I guess Brubaker has seen The Rock. Maybe he’s hoping no one else remembers it….

It’s a bridging issue, which I suppose is to be expected–it is midway through an arc after all–but the places where one would expect Brubaker to excel, he fumbles. He wraps a flashback into the narrative and switches perspective to surprise the reader–the reader who hasn’t seen The Rock–but all those tricks don’t make up for him flubbing the one non-action scene in the book.

Velvet meets up with her former boss in a peculiar situation and every few panels it seems like Brubaker might do some character work or at least a good talking heads scene. But he never does. It’s just exposition about her status as a rogue agent. It’s really too bad.

Still, the Epting art on the action throughout is fantastic.

While derivative, Velvet works fine.

B 

CREDITS

The Secret Lives of Dead Men, Part Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Fade-Out

The Fade Out 2 (October 2014)

The Fade Out #2

Brubaker goes all over the place in the second issue of Fade Out. There's a bunch of stuff with protagonist Charlie's secret partner and best friend–and the way Brubaker narrates from a close third person on Charlie is phenomenal–but there's a lot at the movie studio too.

Not to mention the scenes with Charlie and his friend's wife or Charlie and the dead girl. Those scenes are just great. Brubaker doesn't do anything with the murder investigation; the comic doesn't feel like a too gimmicky noir, it feels like Brubaker trying to figure out this story and it's often great.

Overall, there are some problems towards the end because there's still the narrative–it's still about this dead girl and protagonist Charlie's involvement in it. But Brubaker's emphasis on the cast and making sure the texture of the setting comes through, not to mention Phillips's illustration of those things, is great.

B 

CREDITS

The Death of Me; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

velvet

Velvet 7 (September 2014)

Velvet #7

Leave it to Brubaker–my favorite issue of Velvet so far and she isn't even in her own comic. Instead, it's Brubaker chronicling the efforts of two guys working for the agency (and neither seem to be the corrupt faction out for Velvet) trying to find her.

There's really good narration from the first guy, Colt, as Brubaker takes him through the first half of the comic. The guy's figuring out how Velvet's working, which is subtle at first but then gets more important. He's also surprised at himself–the character, not Brubaker–for missing the signs of Velvet being a master spy.

The second guy is Colt's boss and he's also got a path to go on to figure things out. Brubaker never forces the narration, never does anything obvious. When the boss figures out Velvet's next step, it's a huge surprise for the reader.

It's an outstanding issue. Brubaker nails it.

B+ 

CREDITS

The Secret Lives of Dead Men, Part Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Fade-Out

The Fade Out 1 (August 2014)

The Fade Out #1

The Fade Out is the story of a Hollywood screenwriter in the 1940s. Ed Brubaker writes the comic’s narration in really close third person. Between Brubaker–who has his fair share of writing predictable twists–and the protagonist–who would probably write even more of them–one of them should have noticed the utterly predictable nature of this issue.

The writer wakes up next to a dead body. Is there any chance he could have something to do with the dead body–a young starlet whose picture he’s working on? He sure doesn’t think so and Brubaker sure tries to make it seem like he’s not involved but guess what… you probably don’t have to guess if you’ve ever seen a single film noir.

I’m being a little hard on the comic, which is well-researched and beautifully illustrated by Sean Phillips. It’s recycled material–James Ellroy deserves an “inspired by” credit at least–but professionally, thoroughly presented.

B 

CREDITS

The Wild Party; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 24 (July 2014)

Fatale #24

Given all the series’s problems as of late, I didn’t expect Brubaker to finish Fatale well. I knew it’d be problematic, but I hoped he’d go for satisfying at least.

Instead, he pretends he’s been writing a lot of third person exposition in purple prose so he can finish the comic with a rumination on the beauty of a sunset or some such nonsense. But it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Fatale’s been on a downward trajectory for a while and a rushed one–not ending would have been satisfactory. The writing’s just been too reductive.

But worse, Phillips’s art is rushed. He’s got lots of little panels and not enough detail on the people in those panels. He does a lengthy action sequence and it’s boring–it’s not entirely his fault, Brubaker’s rushing through the scene as far as tension.

It’s an unfortunate ending. It ignores everything good about the comic.

C- 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

velvet

Velvet 6 (July 2014)

Velvet #6

Brubaker starts Velvet’s second arc and it’s just as clear as with the first one, there’s something just a little off about it. Epting doesn’t get much opportunity for the period piece stuff this issue either, which is too bad.

There’s a whole bunch of exposition with Velvet explaining her thinking about her investigation–it brings up the perspective question too. Who’s Velvet telling her story? Or is her first person narrative just easy first person narration with no thought about it other than what mood it creates.

The issue is light on action, with Brubaker instead going for cheap visual thrills and innuendos at a London sex club. The short action scene at the end doesn’t make up for the lack of it throughout. Epting isn’t particularly creative on the composition either.

The extreme competency of the series continues to keep it afloat, but it’s still rather dull.

B- 

CREDITS

The Secret Lives of Dead Men, Part One; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 23 (June 2014)

Fatale #23

What a frustrating penultimate issue. It’s intentional on Brubaker’s part, but it doesn’t really matter because even though there’s almost no content to the issue–he reveals one big, deep dark defining secret of Jo’s, but it’s handled so matter-of-factly it doesn’t have much weight–even though there’s nothing to it, there’s Phillips’s art.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Phillips get to go so big on a collaboration with Brubaker, much less on Fatale, where he’s usually just been the perfect artist for the story but never the driving force of the comic.

Phillips drives this issue with its cosmic lovemaking and its double page spreads. There’s nothing to the comic besides this wonderful art, the underdone reveal and then the cliffhanger. But those big pages of Phillips, where he gets to equalize the stars and people, those are wonderful and nothing else matters. Not even Brubaker slacking off big time.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

velvet

Velvet 5 (May 2014)

Velvet #5

Maybe half the issue is really good background stuff with Velvet’s training after World War II and her mentor. Brubaker’s hostile to the new reader–and even to the regular reader with the bad memory–he doesn’t establish the story in context, he just starts out with his alternating flashbacks.

The training and the mentor is the better stuff because of Velvet’s narration. Brubaker gets in about ten percent history, ten percent character building, eighty percent story. The other stuff, with Velvet’s marriage to a fellow spy, is convoluted and done way too subtly. The comic opens with a Dr. No era James Bond homage, there’s no room for subtlety.

The front-heaviness ends up hurting. It’s just a bridging issue, which Brubaker tries to disguise. There’s some good Epting art and the finish is fine–maybe if Brubaker hadn’t revealed the flashback was all due to a single conversation.

B- 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 22 (May 2014)

Fatale #22

Until the last sequence, which tries too hard, this issue of Fatale is one of Brubaker’s strongest in a while. It starts with the big bad guy, the Bishop–who I can’t remember if Brubaker has named before–investigating what Jo’s been doing. Then it goes into a long flashback of the Bishop’s life since 1906.

It ties into a lot of big historical events, with the San Francisco earthquake being the result of the ceremony giving the Bishop his power. Brubaker and Phillips tie it all together, with pitch perfect narration and some great summary art from Phillips. World War I, World War II, it’s like getting a war comic and an Indiana Jones comic from Phillips all in one.

But the finish, where Brubaker ties it into the modern events, is problematic. It’s more setup for the finale and, worse, it’s contrived setup.

Still, it’s mostly masterful stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 21 (March 2014)

Fatale #21

This issue, while obviously winding up to the big finish, is a bit of return to form. Brubaker takes the time to introduce a new character–one impervious to Jo's charms–and he's a nice addition. There's some levity amidst Jo's preparations.

Speaking of Jo's preparations, Brubaker does go too far with a reveal in the last page or two. He makes Jo do something incredibly dumb. After showing her to be plotting and careful, she goofs. It doesn't work.

But Jo's really back to being the mysterious femme fatale this issue. Nicolas is the protagonist, meeting Jo's sidekick, trying to figure out what's going on with her–he hasn't been the protagonist for a long, long time. And the series is only twenty-one issues in and the guy feels foreign to the captain's chair.

It's an outstanding issue; still, it also shows how reductive Brubaker's being with the series's many intermediary details.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

velvet

Velvet 4 (March 2014)

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Strange thing about this issue… I think Brubaker’s started worrying about whether or not Velvet is likable. He makes her sympathetic right off with her recap of the aftermath of the previous issue’s soft cliffhanger. She recounts having sympathy herself for the abused Russian wife.

More than that detail, her narration is very explanatory. There’s exposition here and there, a lot of background hints, but Brubaker’s now letting the reader into her head. She’s in the middle of a huge, contrived conspiracy and she’s the good guy. Why shouldn’t the reader like her?

The big moments in this issue revolve around some kind of carnival in Monaco. Lots of good costumes from Epting, followed by a great action sequence. Even the way Velvet narrates her action sequence makes her more sympathetic.

It’s good enough, but with the overused first person narration, Brubaker’s not letting Velvet surprise the reader much anymore.

B 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 20 (February 2014)

f

Well, okay, yeah… Fatale is definitely in its last lap. Brubaker doesn’t hide it at all. He does, however, rush things. I thought it was going to be an awesome issue of Jo flashing back to her very interesting past.

Instead, she becomes John McClane and has to save Nicolas. And that wraps up real quick. Not so much action-packed as Cthulhu-packed. I’m also not sure if the Donnie Darko reference was supposed to seem original or not.

But it’s hard to get excited about the finish because halfway through this issue, it’s clear Fatale isn’t coming to a nature end. Why do a bunch of character work on utterly disposable characters? It feels like the series got canceled on Brubaker and Phillips so they have to rush an ending. Only no, they apparently just ran out of interest.

Or Brubaker always had a weak ending planned out.

B 

CREDITS

Curse the Demon; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 19 (January 2014)

292987 20140108141041 large

I’m not sure where I’m at with this issue. It finishes up the grunge band arc, but Brubaker uses it to kick off (presumably) the next arc set in the modern day.

He should really have some reminder of the modern day protagonist’s name. We’ve just gone through five or six new male characters; I’ll call him Streak from now on.

The plotting is a little too contrived, too convenient. Jo comes back at just the right time, the record company is owned by the Cthulhu worshippers. The issue’s a fine enough read, it’s just on reflection it’s such an easy out. Maybe it’s how Brubaker structured the story–Jo’s the protagonist, but the reader is supposed to care about the band and their problems. The two parts don’t move in conjunction.

There’s some gore and violence, but nothing visually distinctive. There’s nothing inventive or surprising, it’s all painfully predictable.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.