You guys. I just. Dead Letters, though. It’s so cool. Is it too cool for its own good? Is there such a limit? I’ve been trying to figure out succinct ways to describe this book, especially after the big reveal at the end of issue 1. Right now, I’m seeing... equal parts Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, A Fistful of Dollars, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Seriously, if Charnel doesn’t make you think of the Judge from Roger Rabbit, you’re on crack. It’s also kind of like stories from the Bible for agnostics. Jones seems more and more Job-ish every issue, there are some definite demons, but Maia constantly downplays the religious aspects for a more humanistic stance. She even likens the design of purgatory (properly “here”) to the design of a factory that was supposed to be assembly-line-efficient until people clogged up the works.
This book is a lot of fun for a story about a dead guy stuck in purgatory. There’s no No Exit moaning about how loathsome the human condition is, that we must live and then be trapped with each other in purgatory forever. There’s an assessment of the new digs, a wry grin to the whole affair, and we’re off and running.
Sebela is having a lot of fun, and it’s coming across in every page. Where High Crimes feels tightly plotted and taut, Dead Letters is much looser. Which isn’t to say there’s no tension: there’s plenty. It just doesn’t let itself get bogged down. At the end of the day, everyone in this book is nigh-unkillable and has pretty much infinite time to do their thing. There’s no rush, so let’s have a little fun, y’know?
Visions is killing it. When’s the last time you saw a comic on the stands where the main character was a POC who not only was a badass, but looked suave as hell all the time. Seriously, the fact that purgatory is apparently circa 1958 and Sam gets away with wearing a blue suit with black lapels, a black tie, a red shirt, and spats on his shoes... I need a moment. Fancy dress makes me wobbly in the knees, and Visions does it up right. Alternately, he’s creating some of the most visually arresting action sequences I’ve seen in a long time. The shootout in the bar is only two pages, and it’ll stick with me for the rest of the year, at least.
My only concern with this book is that I’m not sure what Sam’s goal is. Does he want to go back to Earth? That sounds horrible to this reporter, but that may be what he wants. Does he want to usurp god? Does he want to just hang out and not have anyone fuck with him for eternity? That’s valid. But I’m not seeing much of it. I’m seeing him play each gang off the other, which was expected but still enjoyable, but beyond that, who knows? I’m willing to chalk part of it up to the fact that, while the first issue began Sam’s story, this second issue began the story of the world. Last issue, we got used to who Sam was, and now we’re getting used to the world. I’d like to see more in terms of a throughline plot next issue, but god knows I’ll be at the front of the line for the privilege to pick it up.
Dead Letters is fun, and it’s violent, and it’s addressing themes of what it means to be a human and what rewards there may be for good people in a secular world, and it’s doing it all in a visually gorgeous setting. I mean, come on: Dead Letters is everything you want from a comic book, in spades. If you’re not picking it up, you better wise up... ya mooks.
Writer: Chris Sebela Artist: Chris Visions Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/7/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital