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April 4, 2014

BOOM! Studios Review: Dead Letters #1

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Written by: Jeff Lake
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imageDead Letters #1
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Chris Visions
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

You have no memory. You do have a gun. The phone is ringing; what do you do? BOOM! Studios asks this and more as they bust out their newest debut, Dead Letters.

Dead Letters follows one Sam Whistler, a recent amnesiac who still commands a very specific set of skills. Waking up blank-minded in a seedy hotel, Sam immediately puts those same skills to use in order to find out who he is and why he’s being hunted. Car chases, gun battles, and general badassery ensue, leading Sam to a revelation that will change his life (and his world view) forever.

Dead Letters starts fast and doesn’t let up, immediately dropping us into the confused yet capable mind of Sam. There’s a cool calmness to the character that’s well utilized, as even when things go off the rails (which they do, frequently) he never loses his head, despite not knowing what’s in it. His recall of his past abilities is Bourne-esque, yet he’s not a programmed super soldier. Sam’s character is burdened by a past he can’t remember, and despite that lapse he knows he’s a “bad guy.” His nasty array of talents alludes to a hard pre-wipe life, and it’ll be interesting to see how the next few issues play out as his memory presumably begins to resurface.

Narratives featuring an amnesiac can be tough to get right, yet writer Sebela does a nice job driving the story, keeping the focus on Sam and his new found struggle. He posits Sam as a lone-wolf character who relies solely on himself, even when surrounded by those who seem to know more about him than he does. This self reliance is both a crutch and a source of strength, as even without memories Sam doesn’t lack for confidence or pure guts. I fully bought into Sebala’s hard boiled world, so much so that I was completely floored by a revelation near issue’s end. This out-of-left-field shift appears seemingly out of nowhere, yet it works, especially upon closer examination. Sebala clearly isn’t messing around in his debut issue, that last second “gotcha” vaulting Dead Letters into esteemed “book of the week” type company.

Further cementing said status are the wicked visuals set forth by artist Chris Visions. The art burns like a fever trip, Visions’s panels a collision of vibrant colors and hazy blacks. Scenes zigzag across the page with barely contained zest, each panel pushing Sam further down the rabbit hole. Visions imbues Sam with the perfect blend of swagger and nonchalance, a man capable yet restrained. As the story unfolds so does Visions’s art, his style growing bigger and bolder with each passing page. His depiction of the world Sam inhabits is also a trip, the backdrop punctuated by garish hues and bleeding shadows. Visions gives Dead Letters¬†grit and attitude, and it’s better for it.

Dead Letters #1 is an engaging and well constructed debut that combines a slick narrative with dynamic art. With a strong character intro and a compelling ending, Sebala and Visions deliver and offer promise for more. Don’t miss it!

Jeff Lake



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