For a man who lives his life in purgatory, Sam has had a long run where he couldn’t be touched. He has an enchanted blade, he’s got the head of one of his biggest enemies in a bag on the seat... and now, we reach the point where all his sins catch up to him. The issue opens with a hotel of new arrivals getting scattered, true death for a soul trapped Here. While Sam tries to establish an ubergang to take down the Saints of Nowhere, his boss is concerned that he let such a large scale attack occur and lose all those pretty souls. To make up for it with a different employer (Sam has so many, after all), Sam is forced to go undercover into the rat’s nest of a Saints conclave. And there’s really only one way that can end for our man Sam.
Sebela and Visions are one of the few creative teams that I can count on every single month to delivery the highest-quality issue. They’re up there with the top tier of creators in my book, given the assured swagger this book had arrival that its justified in the past 8 months with rock solid issue after rock solid issue. As one of the books hitting the shelf this month with Boom’s 10 year anniversary variant cover, it is definitely one of the high quality products that Boom should be holding up to prove themselves.
Since launching, Sebela’s writing has gotten more and more nuanced, and more streamlined. Where the first arc felt very propulsive and gave us a clear story all the time, knowing motivations, knowing who was the “good guy” and who was the “bad guy”. The current arc, we’re tossed right into the action with a team that trusts us as readers. I’m generally a little confused by each issue’s plot between the first and second read, but that’s the case with me for almost any noir; I enjoy Raymond Chandler novels and I enjoyed Inherent Vice, but afterwards, I could describe you the characters and the mood, if not the plot to every detail. This genre isn’t about what happened. It’s about who it happened to, which is the secret sauce of Dead Letters. The characters here are fully realized, and lovingly drawn, and we care about what happens to them. It’s this mastery of the world and the story that make that last page hit so hard.
In addition to that, I will admit that it sometimes gets frustrating in single issues. You don’t get as much information as often as you like, because the team shoots for mood quite often, but I promise you, it is a series worth taking out the last couple issues to refresh before you read the new one. Everything builds, everything pays off.
Visions has been a true breath of fresh air on this series. His art perfectly meshes with this hyper-stylized genre’s roots, and they bring them roaring into the 21st century. His bold inks perfectly hold up under Matt Battaglia’s colors, and they give just the right otherworldly tone for Here as a place that you recognize, maybe from glimpsing the real world under just the right light. With such a sketchy and kinetic style, it could easily go off the rails on him, but Visions reins it in and makes some of the moodiest artwork you’ll find in on the shelves, anywhere.
I don’t know what else I can say to make you pick up this book, aside from the impassioned plea that I don’t think things are going to be okay for our intrepid hero next month... And you don’t want to miss a thing these guys could cook up for him.
Writer: Christopher Sebela Artist: Chris Visions Colorist: Matt Battaglia Letters: Steve Wands Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/21/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital