By Brad Sun. Fragmented images glow in psychedelic neon hues. Some are recognizable (a bloody mouth, a bulging eye), others are barely more than evocative abstract patterns. An unknown narrator says “I hate you.” The page turns and the panels coalesce into a gruesome reveal. The beginning of a mystery that Detective Linda Caruso will soon be compelled to solve.

This is how Dead Inside, a new miniseries written by John Arcudi and illustrated by Toni Fejzula, begins. It’s an artistic and instantly absorbing opening whose inventiveness is never quite matched in the rest of this debut issue.

Still, Dead Inside is brimming with potential, even if the majority of its first chapter is bogged down in setting the stage for the inevitability of the action and intrigue to come. Caruso is neither a sharp-witted master detective nor a tired, burned-out cliché. She is merely mediocre, and the mundanity of her disappointing life brings a familiarity and freshness to the rigid crime procedural structure. There are echoes of Sicario and The Silence of the Lambs in her horror-tinged investigation. Darker worlds and deeper conspiracies lurk at every corner.

But the undeniable standout of Dead Inside is the art. Toni Fejzula’s illustrations bring high contrast noir to a new level. His deliberately over-detailed shadows and wrinkles mar his characters’ faces, resembling grotesque burns or pockmarks. Coupled with surprisingly delicate, almost decorative, linework, Fejzula brings a subtle strangeness to each image, while still keeping the story grounded in reality.

Complimenting Fezula’s art is André May’s colors. He washes the pages in moody hues of blue and purple, but isn’t afraid to get surreal, adding shocks of vibrancy that echo back to those stunning opening pages. Dead Inside will ultimately live or die by how well it can build upon the intriguing foundation of its premise. While still too early to tell, the premiere issue’s execution brings enough visual flair to hold readers’ attention while its vast secrets are slowly revealed.

Dark Horse/$3.99

Script by John Arcudi.

Art by Toni Fejzula.

Colors by André May.

Letters by Joe Sabino.

6.5 out of 10

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