Review: Dead Letters #3

Dead Letters #3 continues the rise of this series to the top of my buy pile every Wednesday. It’s labyrinthine in its plotting, and while the labyrinth gets more and more complex every month, it becomes more and more fun to try and find your way out. The kicker is, you’ll only end up deeper in. This issue introduces a lot of possibilities for where the series can go. The first two have been a lot of fun, but they’ve been wall-to-wall action. Issue 3 doesn’t let up (much), but it sets up some answers on the horizon to questions that have been gnawing at the background scenery of the world. Issue 4 promises to be a real treat, no matter how it plays out.

But enough about this nebulous thing we call “the future” and “next month”; let’s talk about this issue. In this issue, people on the opposing sides of the war for Purgatory (it’s not technically Purgatory, but I don’t think Sebela will begrudge me the shorthand) are becoming aware of the game he’s playing at, and they are none too pleased. Luckily, in a world like Purgatory, you can shoot a man up like a pincushion and he’ll feel no ill effects except a slight limp, and a bitterness he can’t drink away.

Visions’ art continues to boggle the mind, with inventive layouts that skew the eye in the reading, but still don’t lead you astray. This issue had a few panels that were a mite too busy (and one in which I was positive I spotted Marty McFly?), but Visions is getting in the groove now, and he’s consistently hitting it out of the park.

The new plot line that comes through in this issue that I really latched onto was the black market sales of “bathtub feelings.” In Purgatory, you spend an eternity essentially doing nothing. No upward mobility, no downward, 99% of the time. Luckily, some inventive cats have created black market approximations of four feelings: Happy, Sad, Tabula (erases your memory), and Revelation (restores your memory, including what happened to bring you to Purgatory).

DeadLetters_03_coverA copy 2This book, for as much as it’s an action/crime/neo-noir story, refuses to let you forget that it’s not here to address those things. It’s here to address the things that make us human, the things that make us feel the way we feel, the things that make us want to strive to achieve. To do this, Sebela and Visions have taken us to a bland world where everything is the same, where nothing changes except the weather (except the weather never changes either). I think the thing that’s been escaping me is figuring out what the aesthetic notes are the book has been hitting for me, and this month, I landed on at least two: Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett was the easy one, the tough one was Terry Gilliam’s offbeat future-past masterpiece Brazil.

Instead of being the traditional noir hero who courts death as a matter of course and plays into that death wish we’ve all heard about, Dead Letters is flipping the script. Sam mentions that he’s being pulled in three directions and he will surely die, but he won’t really die. It’s Purgatory, he’ll get pulled in three different directions and his body will split into three parts, and he’ll still be there. Nothing changes. There’s nothing to fear except an eternity of living by rote. Somehow I find that oddly inspiring.

There’s room enough in this town for Ma and Jones and Charnel and Sam and Beryl and the whole sick crew. But what’s rapidly becoming apparent is that none of them want to stay there, and the next place they end up may not be so forgiving (or in this case, so blasé).

Score: 5/5

Writer: Christopher Sebela Artist: Chris Visions Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 6/11/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital