Review - Dead Inside #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"Bennet Pen is where you're headed. They got two dead bodies. Time to earn your paycheck, detective."

A detective's life is nothing if not interesting, but usually it comes at a cost. While many assume the cost to be personal there are professional costs as well, such as being relegated to investigating crimes in jails. Detective Linda Caruso in Dead Inside #1 from Dark Horse Comics is one such detective, forced to work cases that no one seems invested in seeing through. The issue is written by John Arcudi, illustrated by Toni Fejzula, colored by André May and lettered by Joe Sabino.

The Jail Crimes Division of the Sheriff’s Office in Mariposa County investigates crimes committed inside county jails. With a limited number of suspects who can’t escape, these are usually easy cases to solve—but not this one. As Detective Linda Caruso gets closer to the heart of the case, she discovers uncomfortable truths about her friends, her job, and herself.

What really makes Dead Inside #1 tick is Arcudi's amazing dialogue. It lends itself exceptionally well to providing a heartbeat to the story and really brings the reader into the case alongside Detective Linda Caruso. Arcudi does a great job of giving the reader plenty of backstory when it comes to Caruso, presenting her as an individual who finds solace in solving crimes--even at the expense of her personal life and well-being. What's most striking about Caruso (and Dead Inside #1) as a whole is how human Arcudi makes Caruso out to be. The issue seems to be more about her accepting the fact that her life isn't the best and less about the crime she's actually investigating, which Arcudi presents rather perfectly.

Fejzula uses an art style that's extremely gritty to bring the reader into a county jail. Many of the characters sport exaggerated/elongated physiques that evoke a psychedelic atmosphere and Fejzula leans on that to give the book darker, more nightmarish tendencies. Fejzula furthers the grim atmosphere with interesting perspectives, honing in on certain expressions to bolster the moment and pulling back to establish wider shots of the darkness in the prison. The panels are mostly laid out in a pretty safe grid which brings some order to the illustrated chaos. May's colors are washed out for the most part and are the perfect fit for the tone of the book established by Fejzula's art.

Dead Inside #1 starts like a pretty criminal investigation that quickly turns into something more involved. Detective Linda Caruso is a very damaged individual, forced to reconcile a string of bad decisions (and bad luck) with her desire to do the right thing. Arcudi offers up a fantastic first issue that does an exceptional job in setting the tone for the series as a whole. There's something sinister about the way Fejzula frames many of the panels, focusing on the characters as they're discussing the recent murder/suicide in the jail as if it's just another Wednesday. Dead Inside #1 is a brilliant first issue that will have readers intrigued and ready for more.

Dead Inside #1 is available December 21.