by Christopher Sebela, Chris Visions and Ruth Redmond
It is pretty telling how well written a script is when the notes after reading a single issue are mostly made up of individual lines from the story. Christopher Sebela’s High Crimes from Monkeybrain Comics is a must read and is a great showcase of the writer’s capability. With his new story, Dead Letters, Sebela takes on a different crime thriller and the storytelling may be even stronger. Paired with a very unique artist in Chris Visions, Dead Letters is an engaging new story.
Sam has woken up in a place he does not quite recognize. Actually, Sam doesn’t remember much at all and that includes his own name. Unreliable narrators are interesting because the readers are just as in the dark as the character and everyone is trying to piece together what is what. Sam answers a ringing phone in the room in which he awoke simply because it is his only chance of learning what is going on. Other than realizing that his name is Sam, all he knows is that someone is coming for him. Within moments, the story takes off in a burst of adrenaline.
From there the story barely takes a moment to let readers catch up. Panel after panel, Sam meets new individuals and moves further into this world that he knows very little about all with the hope that things start to come back. What is clear, and makes for great writing, is the distinction between what he does recall and not. Sam’s familiarities lie in his instincts. He can evade, he can handle a gun, he can recognize a threat and analyze a scenario. But he does not know how he got to this place, who he is supposed to know or where he came from. Sebela subtly builds out the rules and layers of the world as the issue continues forward. Sam is not rendered inert by his memory lapse, but his reliance on instincts over memory means he often acts without knowing why.
The script is paired with some very interesting art by newcomer, Chris Visions. A majority of the story is depicted in immensely dark and shadowed panels. Deep colors, from colorist Ruth Redmond, blacks, and frantic movement all characterize the world in such a way that, at times, it can be a bit disorienting. It is unclear if this choice is meant to mimic the disorienting mindset of the lead, or if it is exuding the grit of the criminal underworld. Either way, the reading experience is not always easy to follow though it is not due to lack of skill. Several times in Dead Letters #1, the panel decisions and coloring showcase the talent of Visions. At one point, Sam adjusts his review mirror and the way Visions lays out the panel is excellent, only showing a hand on the mirror and a slanted depiction of headlights and a grill.
The story’s conclusion is an unexpected one. Though the unreliable narrator is a frequently used trope, Sebela’s scripting, dialogue and conclusion of issue one all point to this story having a lot more to offer than the opening familiarity might otherwise communicate. Instead, those opening pages act as a solid hook and quickly develop into something unique. As the panel pulls back to provide the widest perspective thus far in the story, the script reveal and art work fuse to make for a fantastic final page. Though there are a number of lines from this first story that could be included to convey the craft on display, readers should instead get to discover them on their own. Ultimately, if people can appreciate the artistic choices of Chris Visions, they are sure to come away very satisfied with this new series from BOOM! Studios.