Letter 44 Volume 1
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Alberto Alburquerque
Colorist: Dan Jackson & Guy Major
Letterer: Shawn DePasquale
Publisher: Oni Press
A review by Greg Brothers
Within political circles there are traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation and cross party lines no matter how tense those relationships may be. While the transfer of power requires plenty of meetings, discussions and sharing of intel, one of the traditions that has started in the letter that the previous President leaves for the incoming President. While no President has revealed what has been left for them in these letters one can assume that there is some advice and words of encouragement for a job that very few people have ever held. But what if that letter held information that even some of the most trusted advisors and political operatives didn’t know about.
Letter 44 starts as the newly elected President is being sworn in. A quick flashback takes us to just a few hours later when he receives his letter from the outgoing President Carroll and finds out there is one big secret that very few people in the world know about. As is turns out there is a secret mission that has been going on for years in which a group of volunteers ventured into space to investigate some sort of object that has appeared. The group of course has their own secrets that they are hiding as they continue their mission to determine if what is out there is friend or foe. Beyond trying to determine if the mystery in space is friendly or not, the New President Blades must deal with how to keep campaign promises that may or may not help or hurt the mission that he was unaware of before the letter.
Letter 44 Volume 1 does an impressive job of balancing the two-story lines while keeping them relevant to each other at the same time. While dealing with the new-found information the President is also dealing with political bickering and backstabbing. He soon realizes that any choice he makes will not be an easy one and one that will negatively affect people in one way or another. Soule does an excellent job of showing how complicated these choices are and how much behind the scenes maneuvering must be done to get things done. In addition to being able to write political maneuvering and backstabbing in a way that is intriguing and somewhat based in reality, Soule is able to make the story of the team in space interesting. It would have been easy for the story to become predictable as a group heads off into space knowing they are on a suicide mission as they try and protect earth from impending doom. Instead we get character development and twists galore as the group not only makes sacrifices but also realizes they have more to fight for than just saving the Earth.
The art itself is done in a realistic style while not being based so deep into reality that the more fantastically panels seem out of place. Every character is easily distinguishable from each other, although some of the scenes in the space suits the helmets make it hard to tell the difference between characters. The colors are muted through most of the book, however when they hot a certain part of the story begin to pop for the panels where it is appropriate.
Buy it! Letter 44 Volume 1 does a respectable job of being both a political thriller and a space adventure at the same time. Neither side of the story feels ignored or slighted. Soule creates characters that you can both love and hate while understanding the choices they are make are not always black and white. This first volume does an excellent job of telling the beginning of the story while preparing us for the future installments of the franchise.