John and Grace are a happily married couple. Very happily married. One seemingly quiet night, their life changes when John goes to the store to buy ice cream. He returns to find their apartment building is on fire. Like any man in love, John charges to the couple’s apartment, where Grace is trapped. Grace can’t open the door, so John starts pounding on it, suddenly developing an amazing superpower as he does so. John saves Grace and sets their lives along a whole new path.
This is a sweet and wonderful graphic novel. Written from Grace’s standpoint, the story really makes readers feel the emotions of being married to a hero. Readers feel the rush of excitement, the stress of worry, the thrill of seeing your spouse on TV, and see him finally make the ultimate sacrifice to save the one he loves, as he truly becomes a hero. The story of Fade From Grace is all about the growth that both characters make throughout the book, as readers see them mature and become more aware of the world around them. John/Fade may be the hero, but Grace is his most important source of support and inspiration. Without her, he’s nothing.
In some ways this story reads like an inversion of sandard super-hero plots. With most super-hero books, the powers are the most important facts of the story. The main thing is seeing how the hero learns to use his powers and how he fights evil with those powers. Here the main focus is on John and Grace’s marriage, and all the battles and growth are reflections on the marriage instead of vice versa. It’s a nice change of pace, and makes the comic feel nicely intimate.
Jeff Amano’s art is wonderfully unique in this book. Instead of using linework to drive his images, he uses bright and evocative colors that give the whole story a kind of iconographic feel. The art has a wonderfully impressionistic style that somehow manages to intensify the emotions of the story. Just as the story is an inversion of comics writing, so too the art inverts standard practices.
The only real problem I had with the book is that the couple just get along too well. How can a married couple going through this sort of change never argue about what they should do, or what their long-term goals are? Would a young married woman really be willing to give up the man she loves for a higher cause?
In the end, though, Fade From Grace is a kind of Valentine. It shows a noble, self-sacrificing love that transcends normal people and verges into the super-human. Any why shouldn’t a comic embrace the super-human?