Review by Frank Plowright
Christopher Sebela’s clever twist on noir fiction comes to a tidy close with The Devil’s Chorus, and from the plot point of view that’s a shame, as he’s built an intriguing scenario with an unpredictable lead character. Sam Whistler’s a worthy addition to the long list of noir detectives, except his beat is Here, a sort of purgatory into which all life’s deceased ne’er do wells are tossed and left to fight over scraps. God is supposedly keeping an eye on things, but no-one’s seen her for millennia. Sam ended The Saints of Nowhere by demanding a week’s vacation. When he returns to town a lot has changed, and people hold him responsible.
Since he arrived in Here there have been two constants for Sam. One is the war between two sets of gangsters that’s threatening to tear the place apart, and the other is that the only person he can really trust is himself. One of those is now uncertain.
As in the previous two books, Sebela’s plot runs with a high level of unpredictability, while artist Chris Visions makes it as difficult as possible to work through. The scratchy style isn’t a problem, but the layouts lack imagination, and the eccentric colour choices combine with poorly defined faces and close-up views to obscure rather than clarify.
Sam can’t be faulted for ambition. Over three graphic novels he’s died, turned up in Here, and put together a scheme to displace the status quo and in doing so draw out God. The question for much of the series has been whether he’ll be able to do so, and Sebela uses the idea of God being with us all along to neat effect. In the end Dead Letters has been about possibilities, and we can only wonder about how good it might have been if drawn more sympathetically.