by Christopher Sebela, Chris Visions and Ruth Redmond
Christopher Sebela’s new series from Boom Studios, Dead Letters, opened up its first issue with a intriguingly disorienting sequence. The protagonist, Sam Whistler, awoke with no real memory of who he was or what brought him to where he is. By its conclusion, the story dropped its true premise on the page and it left readers to speculate on what that meant for what is to come. With the second issue, the story provides a lot more information. However, with its page count and narration-heavy script, Dead Letters #2 is a dense chapter that takes a bit of work.
After a race-to-the-finish pace in issue one, readers reconvene with Sam and Maia to be told a lot about this place known as Here. Chris Visions’ art choices over the following pages makes for some very interesting visuals to pair with the information dump. Maia clues Sam in on all she knows about the current state of things in Here, including Jones and Ma and the missing girl, Beryl. Sebela’s writing is broken up well and scattered about these loosely arranged panels so that it doesn’t quite feel like paragraphs of uninterrupted exposition. Ruth Redmond’s coloring throughout these pages mimics the nontraditional arrangement of the images. It plays a bit abstract, looking like running water colors at times. From a far, these pages are gorgeous to witness. Trying to follow them as part of the story, though, becomes a challenge at times.
Sebela reintroduces the pacing and tension of the first issue as Sam comes face to face with Jones’ men when he begins hunting down leads in hopes of finding the peace broker, Beryl. There is an interesting muscle-memory aspect to Sam’s actions. Though he barely remembers his own name, and almost nothing of his life, his ability to evade and play sides is effortless. After hearing about how Beryl was playing the game, it becomes clear that Sam is rapidly heading down the same road. Desperate to learn more about Here and himself, Sam pushes forward though he doesn’t appear to think too many moves in advance. As a result, the story is frantic and energetic, and it consistently puts Sam in tough places. Sebela has a good handle on this character and it creates an engaging experience for the reader in writing him this way.
With this new issue of Dead Letters, readers are introduced to a very tangible threat. In a world where people cannot die, at least not in the conventional way, the new character, Charnel, is a real threat. Even without Sam’s own narration about the character readers will likely feel the evil and worry about what this being is willing to do. Though not the major twist ending of issue 1, the second issue introduces its own intrigue with this character.
There are certainly a lot of fantastic pieces to Dead Letters. The story has a lot of energy, and when it is given the space to pick up speed, it really works. The narration and exposition heavy portions of the second issue weighs things down a bit. Visions and Redmond continue to craft some incredibly intricate and interesting visuals. The heaviness of the line work and the sometimes muddy coloring makes discerning what the images are meant to depict more work. These notches remain minor in the face of a strong concept and should not stand in the way of readers checking this out.