Letter 44 No. 6
by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque
Conspiracy theorists' fantasies take to the page in Letter 44
, a new series currently unspooling from Oni Press.
Its central premise is established when, on inauguration day, the 43rd president of the United States (that would be George W. Bush in real life, thinly veiled as Francis T. Carroll in the comic) leaves a letter for the 44th (Barack Obama in reality, Stephen Blades here) revealing that yeah, he lied to start wars in the Middle East. But he did so because the truth would have been too much for people to handle.
That truth is a large alien presence located in the asteroid belt near Jupiter. Little is known about them, but there are indications that the aliens have more than interstellar sightseeing in mind. From that revelation, writer Charles Soule spins out plot tendrils including political double-crosses on Earth and lustful entanglements among the secret crew of men and women who have spent three years in space approaching first contact.
Soule has produced series such as 27
for indie publishers as well as Swamp Thing
and Red Lanterns
for DC, so he has chops. The story—part Scandal
, part Star Trek
and part soap opera—travels at a brisk pace. We’re only six issues in and there have already been assassination attempts, betrayals, reprisals, births in space and heroic sacrifices. Soule effectively balances the twists and turns of the ground-level political machinations with scenes of the (generally) noble half-scientific, half-military mission among the stars.
Illustrator Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque is at his best with the space mission parts of the tale. There's more room to stretch out when imagining planetary landscapes and he does so where appropriate. But it took three or four issues before the renderings of the faces of several political characters ceased to be a distraction. Several of them appear lumpy and distorted, hard to recognize from panel to panel.
Still, the story is what keeps you turning pages, even if its parts aren't quite as original as it thinks. Summer, the season of blockbuster popcorn flicks and thrill-a-minute beach reads, is an apt time to get into the series. You'll quickly find yourself wondering what the alien agenda is and if the humans can overcome their common, petty flaws to rise to the occasion.