REVIEW: ‘Dead Letters’ #1

(BOOM! Studios, 2014)

Created & Written by Christopher Sebela
Art by Chris Visions
Colors by Ruth Redmond
Letters by Steve Wands

The concept of purgatory, that waiting room between Heaven and Hell, has been both and inspiration and a driving force to the arts for centuries. From Dante’s Inferno, where Purgatory was a mountain representing the climb to a better life, to McFarlane’s Spawn, where it was the third party in the Heaven/Hell battle, purgatory is and will always be a place where good ideas can fester.

Speaking of festering good ideas…Dead Letters #1 is out from Boom Studios.

Christopher Sebela (Dark Horse Presents) has created his own purgatory in the form of a corrupt town filled with the souls of the recently departed, those tortured beings that haven’t been claimed by either side. Either they were just good enough to stay out of Hell or just bad enough to be kept from Heaven. For some reason these men and women were dropped in between, and the bad have made it worse.

Enter Sam Whistler, who awakens in a shabby motel room with no memory of his past, no idea of his present, and is just starting to get a handle on things when the men with guns arrive and start shooting. What’s a guy to do? He shoots back, and is immediately putting his poorly remembered body to the test, jumping out of windows and fighting against men who don’t die so easily. Whistler runs the gamut of bad guys, finding along the way that he is shockingly good at creating havoc, at death and destruction, and that he has the sociopathic calm of a hardened killer.

I love the way Sebela explores the character of Whistler. One thing that all people characterize themselves with is their name. There is nothing more personal than that. But even before Sam knows what his name is he is realizing things about himself that it may take a lifetime for another person. He has the ability to read people at a glance. He can sense motivations tugging him one way or the other. He is completely willing to do what it takes to survive, and has very little remorse over his actions, in fact, he almost enjoys the violence.

The art is gritty and has that almost-caricature feel that falls just short of looking off. Chris Visions (Devils on the Levee) uses pronounced features that make the work interesting without making it farcical. His page layouts are dramatic and cinematic, composing several images into larger ones, and Ruth Redmond’s colors help to cleverly highlight certain aspects of panels that might normally be lost amidst the constant, fiery action. One panel has Sam pulling and cocking a gun beneath a table, and all it took was two small yellow lines to change the focal point of the panel from the dialogue that is going on above the page to what is happening beneath. Visions has a deft touch, and it works for the comic.

Dead Letters #1 is Purgatory as city. Sam Whistler is the unknown, the agent of change in a system that doesn’t work. I see big changes coming in the battle for the afterlife, and with Christopher Sebela writing it and Chris Visions drawing, it will be one hell of a ride to the pearly gates.

Dead Letters #1 released from BOOM! Studios this week and showcases a new take on the afterlife by Christopher Sebela and Chris Visions.

You can purchase it directly from BOOM! by visiting their STORE.



Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.


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