Dead Lettersties up its first arc with issue 4, and I am 1000% ready for more. It’s been one of my favorite books every month, but this issue brings in a satisfying conclusion that also stays true to a lot of noir tropes in new ways. The short, tl;dr version of this review: The book is brilliant, and if you’re not reading it, you’re the worst, and you should be ashamed. Sam has ventured out to find the Methuselahs, who give him some knowledge and some gifts to make it easier for a down-on-his-luck gumshoe to hack it Here. Meanwhile, Ma finds out about a double agent in her and Jones’ organization, and a lot of shit comes down on Maia’s head. Like most months, the plot isn’t the big get for Dead Letters. It’s the characters and the dialogue. This world is one of people who have already colossally fucked up, just not quite enough to get sent Below, and these people are doing their level best to make it Up, fuck up more and end up Below, or stay where they are and forget they were ever human.
A Purgatory environment is always a tough place for a story because Purgatory/Limbo/etc are, by definition, places where nothing happens, forever. Dead Letters takes the eternal PI, the man with the haunted past and the weakness for an innocent smile, and makes him a mover and a shaker in a place where nothing moves and nothing shakes. It becomes a story where a man makes huge gestures, kills people, gets into huge shootouts, and they’re annoyances. It’s a world that’s all about finding the cracks with a knife and working them ad nauseam until it finally splits and everything shatters. It’s tense, and it’s a joy to read every month.
Chris Vision’s art brings a lot of character to this story, but that’s no surprise; he’s done that every month. His character designs really jumped out at me in this issue, and I’m not sure what it is. I just know that I watched Sam get choked out by a thug with watches up and down his arms, and it... struck me. The whole world that Visions is designing for this story is spooky but it still feels real, he’s spent a lot of time there, and it shows. It’s like when you watch a Guillermo del Toro movie and you can tell that he’s even designed the wallpaper to match his story; every element plays well with every other element, and the gears turn without a hitch. It’s fantastic.
The world status quo at the end of issue 4 is shaken up. There are new sidekicks, new bosses (same as the old bosses?), and our hero has finally got a little time to breathe and regroup. Every month so far I’ve been excited to see where Sebela and Visions would take the story they’ve been building, and exploring this world they’re playing in.
Next month, I’ll be excited to see what they’ll do when they have free reign to go anywhere.
Writer: Chris Sebela Artist: Chris Visions Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 7/30/14 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital