"Dead Letters #3" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Christopher Sebela
Illustrated by Chris Visions
2014, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on June 11th, 2014
Sam Whistler has seen better days. I guess all of his days were better when he was alive. Now he's stuck in Purgatory, or “Here” as it's called in Dead Letters. It's not all bad though, as he's got a sweet gig working for God trying to track down the whereabouts of a woman named Beryl, who was also an employee for the big man upstairs. It looks like she got wrapped up in the perpetual gang war that plagues Here and vanished. Sam's got a few leads, but he's playing all the sides against one another, which can be dangerous.
As Sam spends more and more time in Here, he gets used to his new surroundings and abilities. This month he discovers a power that will allow him to see the history of an object or person by touching them. While this is a cool new trick, it makes it seem like there are no real rules in Here. This isn't the first time this has happened as it was established in the first issue that you can't die in Purgatory but this was proven wrong in the second issue. This could be the environment evolving as the story progresses and I'm just being a nerdy nitpicker about it.
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The evolution of Sam as a character is what really stands out this time around. I wasn't entirely sold on him with the first two issues, but by now, I'm in. He's realized that no one is telling the truth, or at least telling him everything, so he's working angles to get what he needs from all parties involved, including those on God's payroll. We're given the first few glimpses into Sam's life before he died (that's a weird statement, huh?) and it looks like he was a drug kingpin of some kind. Now he's using the same skills that allowed him to rise to power in the land of the living while he's six feet under.
Sam's internal dialogue is what has made him likeable. He's asking the same questions that I am as a reader. Why is he doing all this? What is he really getting out of it? What really happened to Beryl? Author Christopher Sebela makes it feel as if we're on the same page as Sam throughout his search. We're never a step ahead or behind him. As he figures things out, so do we.
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Chris Visions' artwork can be a little rough in some areas. There are panels where I'm not entirely sure what is happening, usually in a fight scene. His style looks more sketched out instead of fine polished. This can work very well in certain instances, such as the shots of Sam's past, presented as Polaroids falling across the page. The art direction is pretty great in this issue too. There's a two-page spread early on that has Sam fighting for his life. The panels are set up in such a way that they zig zag across the pages which works well with the action in the scene.
Visions' cover for this issue is a work of art. Well...obviously it's art, but you know what I mean. It shows images of Sam and Ma, one of the gang leaders, layered on top of one another. Ma's large hairdo swirls outward, going over Sam's face with his eye showing in the center of it. It's the kind of shot that I can stare at for a while and never get tired of it.
Dead Letters has pulled me in. I'm dying (HAR HAR!) to find out what happened to Beryl, how Sam is going to figure it out, and more importantly, what he's going to do next. There's a larger mystery at work here. I've never been more interested in dead people.