Review - Dead Letters #1

"The first thing I remember is I can't remember anything at all."

It's a very good bet that if you wake up one morning with little to no recollection of the night before, it'll have little to do with gangsters chasing after you. Or bandages on your wrist. Or a revolver on the nightstand. All of those characteristics make for a compelling story and it's one that BOOM! Studios is telling in Dead Letters #1. The book is written by Christopher Sebela, illustrated by Chris Visions, colored by Ruth Redmond and lettered by Steve Wands.

Sam doesn't remember anything. He wakes up in a dirty motel with a bandage arm and revolver on his desk. The setting itself should provide enough context for his current situation, but the armed men knocking on the door require him to pick up a bit more from the situation. Sam will have to use every trick from his forgotten repertoire to outrun and outsmart his way through a hardboiled wonderland of gang wars, femme fatales and big secrets.

On its surface, Dead Letters #1 feels like a pretty standard noir book with hints of gangsters and dirigibles. Upon reading it though, you quickly come to realize that there's so much more to the setting than just that. Sam clearly has a past rife with combat and weapons training, which gives the reader the impression that there's a lot more to him than what's initially presented. Following along with amnesic characters is pretty adventurous in its own right, but Sebela does some stuff that ensures the book doesn't feel played out. There's also a good mix of characters throughout, with the majority of them capable killers with little hesitation when it comes to pulling the trigger if it furthers their own cause.

A story's grittiness tends to work better when the art cooperates and Visions goes to great lengths to do just that. The characters are illustrated with strong, defined outlines that manage to get lost amidst the scratchy backgrounds and scenery. The scratchiness makes the book feel hazy at times and gives the reader something that resonates with both them and Sam, yet it doesn't really detract from the pacing of the book or anything. There are a good bit of action sequences throughout and Visions handles the action rather deftly, giving the reader ample opportunities to keep track of everything that's going on. Redmond's relies on some rather dark colors that further the tone of the book and make it feel sufficiently rough.

The world being created by both Sebela and Visions is pretty crazy and blends together a wide variety of varying ideas and concepts. A lot of people have been talking about the book's twist and there's no spoilers here, but suffice it to say that it's pretty significant and will definitely give the reader a fresh take things. There's a lot in the book that will be familiar to some readers, but Sebela does a great job in making the book feel unique, primarily through Sam as the lead character. Visions is equally up to the task of illustrating the book, fleshing out a world rife with angry mobsters and guardian angel dames. Dead Letters #1 is a promising first issue in a series that could go in a number of directions, so grab the issue and pick which way you want to go.

Dead Letters #1 is in stores now with interiors below.