Part The X-Files come to life, part The Abyss in space, Letter 44 #1 is a terrific cauldron of political intrigue and science fiction brewing constant tension.
Outgoing president Francis T. Carroll wasn’t popular. He led the nation into wars, including costly conflicts in the Middle East, and his economic policies were highly criticized. On the day of his inauguration, president-elect Stephen Blades visits the Oval Office and discovers the traditional letter left to him by his predecessor. And in that letter, Blades learns that the unpopular policies masked a greater scarier truth: an alien construction project was underway in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
As he reads on, Blades learns that the former president sought to prepare his nation for the alien attack he believed to be inevitable, “You all thought I was some asshole, putting the country’s soldiers in harm’s way.… I wanted the U.S. to have as many combat-veteran soldiers as we could get. I wanted a reason to pump money into defense, especially R&D. We need to be ready when those things come down here—and they’re coming, you can bet on that.”
More than three years prior to the end of his second term, President Carroll launched a nine-person team of scientists and military personnel to establish contact with the aliens. Their journey is nearing completion, and there are surprises aboard the Clarke that make this an intriguing second storyline.
Writer Charles Soule (Superman/Wonder Woman) offers a well-crafted “What if…” that will delight conspiracy theory fans and sci-fi geeks alike. The extraordinary circumstances of this first issue take a remote back seat to the characters and their development. You’ll sympathize with President Blades on his first day in office and with the Clarke’s crew members so far from civilization and its rules.
Delivering the suspense that builds with each panel is artist Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. There is a world-weary quality to Albuquerque’s characterizations that grows as the tension affects everyone. And he deftly transitions between the science scenes and the political scenes by keeping focus on the characters. Read this one a second time to catch all of Albuquerque’s subtle background details that add so much toward the reader investing in this really good comic.
How did you like Letter 44 #1? Leave a comment below.
Charles Soule (W), Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque (A) • Oni Press, $1.00, October 16, 2013