John Arcudi has been around since the ’90s, writing everything from Aquaman to Hellboy to Aliens. I’ve seen his name on comics that I’ve read, but I don’t think (of what I’ve read) anything has quite hit me like Dead Inside. This feeling took me by surprise. Dead Inside is a murder mystery set within the confines of a prison system. The first issue set things in motion; it didn’t quite grab me, but it was interesting enough to continue on. After four issues, I’m hooked.
Detective Caruso is working a job she doesn’t want, basically what amounts to being the special investigator for everything that happens within this prison. She gets almost zero respect from her bosses and coworkers, but finds the gumption and tenacity to push forward and uncovers a clue that points to the fact that a whole heck of a lot more is going on than just a simple inmate killing. Her personal life also isn’t sunshine and rainbows. It creates the perfect hard-boiled environment for the story to unfold within.
The dialogue is great; each character – no matter how small – speaks as if they are motivated by something other than to move the story along. Each character’s motivation makes it that much more difficult for Caruso to do the job she knows she can do! It’s frustrating and aggravating to see her constantly get nudged out of the spotlight – not that that’s what she wants; she wants to do her job. The rhythm and build of the story is spot on. Every issue ends with a twist that both shocks and propels you forward, while at the same time feeling completely grounded. Nothing is so far out of left field that you lose your footing.
Tony Fejzula’s art continues to grow on me. It’s not cinematic and it’s not natural. It has this oddly unsettling, unbalanced perspective and feel. The way he uses space is really wonderful. His figure work isn’t natural, but it isn’t quite expressionistic. Each character carries with them this ghostly quality. It’s really haunting visually. A lot of this also has to do with André May’s color palette, which even when colorful is pretty grim.
If you love comics and if you love a good story, check this one out.