I finally had a chance to sit down and catch up on Letter 44, hence why this is the first issue we’ve had for the series on the site. I’ll admit that I’m glad that I let the issues pile up some as it made for a tremendous reading experience. The first issue does a great job of hooking you with its concept, but the cliffhangers for each issue will have you pulling out your hair for more. This fourth issue is no exception as three different story lines manage to leave the reader hanging. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the issue it’s loosely based on our own reality during the transition from one president to the next. During this transition the new president is left a letter that reveals the cause for the bulk of his actions during his presidency and that they’re all tied into the discovery of an alien structure hanging out in our galaxy that’s is terrifyingly close to the earth.
The simile to our earth comes to us via the fact that many of the problems and decisions the new president in the fictional world is making, resembles the real world choices that President Obama has made during his presidency. That was one of the many hooks that got me, that and the fact that I’m an absolute sucker for space travel that actually ventures past Mars.
This issue we learn that the attack on Elijah has been taken as a stroke rather than the intentional attack we as the reader know it to be. It results in the President hiring the previous President’s Chief of Staff which looks to have been someone’s plan after all. It’s very interesting because Elijah’s absence seems to have crippled the President and really he’s lost more than just his Chief of Staff, but someone who he could trust and that had similar beliefs as him. That’s very useful when struggling with the decision to reveal the existence of extraterrestrial life and a secret space mission to scout said life to the public.
We also see the majority of the military side of the Clarke space crew head out in the mini vessel to approach the asteroid that they came in contact with. One of the science officers is also going along so that soldiers aren’t the first to come in contact with alien life. Let’s just say that things get really interesting on the Clarke for several reasons.
The strongest aspect of the narration is the pacing that Charles Soule keeps. To read this series is to read it with a giant countdown clock above your head ticking away the seconds. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s based so much of the President’s decisions off our real world president, but Soule manages to make this danger feel real. Even further he manages to make it scary because the story hasn’t revealed if this alien life is dangerous or friendly.
Soule has spun two major story lines and with this issue has essentially spun two more sub-plots from those story lines. It’s been a smooth transition and a lot of that comes from the strong characters that he’s crafted with the series. Each character is three-dimensional and comes with their quirks and own personality traits. It makes each of them very believable and their actions all the more real.
Alberto Alburquerque’s art work is the right choice for this book. I can see some being turned off by it due to his heavy line work and the Aeon Flux influenced character design, but as someone who enjoys that style I find that Alburquerque’s style adds to the danger and suspense of the series.
Alburquerque’s style is interesting; at times there is so much detail to each panel, but then at times there can be very little. It’s as if he knows when to go full force and when to hold back. It’s a great balance that adds to the effectiveness of the story. Alburquerque is supported by Dan Jackson’s coloring; Jackson takes a similar approach to Alburquerque’s line work by keeping the coloring bold and thick. It’s the perfect complement, but never does the art look over powered by darkness.
If you’ve been missing out on this book you should do what I did and back track to the beginning and catch up. It’s a high concept idea that really works best in the comic medium because it doesn’t have to worry about a production budget. If you want a thriller that’s equal parts political and sci-fi or never thought such a thing could exist… then check out Letter 44.
Writer: Charles Soule Artist: Alberto Alburquerque Colorist: Dan Jackson Publisher: Oni Press Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/12/14