New threats have bubbled up in Here, as the gang war between Jones and Ma continues to rage on.
Is it good?
Dead Letters #5 (BOOM! Studios)
Christopher Sebela and Chris Visions continue to flesh out more and more of the world of Here. They begin Dead Letters #5 by introducing the reader to the method of how new souls arrive and directly contrasting it to how Sam arrived in Here. Visions provides an excellent visual depiction of the process Sebela describes in a conversation between Sam and his new boss, Fante. The first panel adds a dash of extremely cynical comedy as a bus heading to “Look Out” closes in on an unsuspecting pedestrian. The mood shifts dramatically to extreme sadness as the recent victims of death are lined up with heads downcast and shoulders slumped, still experiencing their causes of death. Visions provides a graphic depiction of how people die and are transported and relocated to Here.
Horrifically, the process has been attacked by a new gang, the Saints of Nowhere, who are using more soul-destroying weapons. Fante commissions Sam with the task of finding out who this new gang is and who is supplying them with these terrible weapons.
After introducing the new direction of this story arc, Sebela reminds the reader Jones and Ma are still around and have their own plans for Here. Although the reminder seems out of place and only depicts Ma’s hate for Jones, there is no real politicking or smooth talking by Sam in an attempt to put a cork in the gang war.
One of the most interesting developments in the book is the notoriety Sam has gained. He is no longer able to get away with the devious ploys he used to pit Ma and Jones against each other. The citizens of Here have caught on to his wily ways. In just five books, the main protagonist has to adjust his methods of detection and adapt to a whole new environment.
In this case, Sam has to adapt to multiple environments as the Burroughs of Here take on Inception-like capabilities. The environments rapidly change from panel to panel as Sam chases down a fleeing suspect. The two use their minds to construct “their own room[s], scribbled one on top of another.” Visions has a lot of fun with the chase sequence, especially one panel where Sam jumps feet first into a frozen pool of water only to appear at the top of the next panel upside down with his torso and head outside of the frozen water. It is a really neat concept that is pulled off brilliantly.
Colorist Matt Battaglia allows the reader to fully grasp the changing environments from the creation of a blistering white wintery snow storm to an open sky of blue looking down on a field of golden wheat to a pitch black alley with the only light coming from the flashes of gun fire. Not only is Battaglia able to bring these drastically different environments and landscapes to life, but he excels in depicting splatters of colors whether it is blood spraying from Sam’s body or the muzzle fire from a hooded attacker’s weapon.
One of the most intriguing aspects Christopher Sebela is able to incorporate into Dead Letters and which he does flawlessly in this book is a healthy discussion on death and the afterlife without smacking the reader in the head with it. It is subtle and expertly incorporated into Sam’s thought process as he wonders about “God’s big science experiment.”
Not everything is as brilliant as his discussion on death and the afterlife, however. A major problem with the book is the lettering. It is extremely difficult to read. “S’s” look like “G’s” and “E’s” look like “S’s”. It takes a couple of read-throughs and some squinting of the eyes to figure out what some of the words are.
Is It Good?
Dead Letters #5 provides an interesting new story arc with a whole new set of problems piled on top of Sam’s existing problems. Sebela, Visions, and Battaglia continue building the world of Here and add an interesting Inception-like concept to a specific area of the world. However, the lettering makes it a little difficult to read.