Dead Inside

Dead Inside
Dead Inside graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dark Horse - 978-1-50670-222-3
  • Release date: 2017
  • UPC: 9781506702223
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

Detective Linda Caruso is called to the county jail where one inmate has murdered another around three times his size, then hung himself, the latter location the only place where the antiquated CCTV cameras actually work. She’s rushed through the crime scene, obstructed by the warden, and has the door slammed on her by her Lieutenant, both keen to close the case as rapidly as possible, but Linda knows there more to it, and she’s not the type to be prevented from doing her job. The more she digs, the murkier everything becomes.

Given the strong and sympathetic, yet flawed woman leading Dead Inside you’d be forgiven for thinking Greg Rucka responsible for the plot, not John Arcudi, as it’s the type of character Rucka specialises in (see recommendations). However, Arcudi’s every bit Rucka’s match when providing a mystery where the bodies keep piling up in keeping a secret a lot of people seem to know about, yet none will reveal to Linda. Arcudi also has other matters complicating Linda’s working life, and the constant simmering danger provided by the prison setting adds a sweaty extra level of tension.

A strange stylisation afflicts Tony Fejzula’s otherwise excellent art. He’ll draw some faces as if monumentally burn scarred, with lumps and slashes, and some people with really thin heads. It’s puzzling because it’s deliberate, not a novice artist making mistakes because Fejzula’s really good with other people and with their surroundings. It’s a poor choice, as the distractions keep the story from flowing as it should.

Arcudi drops genuine revelations along with fake leads in what turns out to be a masterclass in how to keep an audience guessing what’s going on. It’ll take a well seasoned crime fiction reader to figure things out before Arcudi comes fully clean and reveals the culprits, and that makes for a really satisfying immersion in a sordid world.