Comic Vine Review

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Letter 44 #1

4

Space action meets political intrigue, but not in the usual way.

The Good

Everyone knows that achieving a certain level of power (say, becoming President) means you get access to top-secret secrets; the kind of things that make people change their minds about the way the world works. Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque take this concept and run -- er, rocket -- with it, going past Earthly expectations for conflict.

And conflict there is, though we've only seen the first tease of what lies behind the curtain. Even if the last page had been empty space, the book would've been rife with tensions of the "how do we handle this?" variety, both for the astronauts and the new President. That it wasn't empty space gives us even more promising narrative paths, and I'm excited to see where Soule and Alburquerque take it. They've given us the start to a stew of human drama (on Earth and in space), human-alien relations (whether they're hostile or diplomatic), and pure survival against the vast, harsh environment of the asteroid belt, and it's fantastically unpredictable in just the right way for a first issue.

LETTER 44 was previewed at San Diego Comic-Con, but even if you picked up a copy, it's worth pulling for how polished and designed it is in final form -- Guy Major's colors take the art to a new level, and there's so much nuance and tone that's missed in a black-and-white book that wasn't designed that way.

The Bad

Politics irrespective, characters that are ultra-close analogues to real people jar my suspension of disbelief. I like fake Presidents to be, well, fake -- renumbered, rescandaled, rebranded, refaulted; not just renamed. It's done well with Blades, but not so much with Carroll, and the letter portion of the issue, minus the space bit, left something to be desired.

On a visual note, I find that some of the faces and necks are too lined for my taste. Certainly, these are stressed-out people, but somewhere between inks and colors, the Joint Chiefs could collectively keep a Botox clinic operational.

The Verdict

I've always wanted the excuse to say "I'll buy that for a dollar" in a review, and now I have it; Oni priced LETTER 44 out at one dollar. It's hard to ignore such an accessibly-priced issue, and even harder when it's a cleverly concepted book coming from such a talented team. LETTER 44 is a well-executed book with a fresh concept, and did I mention that it is one dollar? It's a promising series with an excellent entry point; seek this one out.

22 Comments

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AllStarSuperman

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@missj do you read superhero comics or do you just read all the "out there" stuff?

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longbowhunter

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Edited By longbowhunter

Forgot to look for this at the shop. I'll have to go back this weekend.

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MissJ

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@allstarsuperman: I do read (many!) superhero comics. I tend to review a lot of independent titles just to make sure they get as much exposure/show up on radars -- for the longest time I was strictly Big 2, and I'm really glad to read a broad range now.

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AllStarSuperman

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@missj: oh okay that's cool, I was wondering if superheroes just wasn't your thing or if you just decided to do other stuff cause all the other staff is mostly superheroes. I have been mostly DC for quite some time, but im getting into Valiant and IDW.

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longbowhunter

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@missj: I really appreciate all the attention you give to the Image books. My pull list is bloated with 'em but I know that's not the case for everyone. Putting the word out on a creator owned series can make all the difference.

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MissJ

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@allstarsuperman: Yeah, the joke-that-isn't-really-a-joke is that I pulled every single issue of the first full year of the New 52 before dropping any. Totally still into capes.

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MissJ

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Edited By MissJ

@longbowhunter: Glad to hear it. Image is really rocking it with unique content (as are others, but they're realllly on top of their game!), and I love to shine as much attention as possible on less-marketed projects that show off what creators are capable of when not bound by licensed material.

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AllStarSuperman

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@missj: really! That must have been expensive.

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MissJ

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@allstarsuperman: Yeah. And not the easiest to store. It took until my recent move not to hoard all of them, partly because it felt like an achievement to collect them all?

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CuddleBear

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@missj so who are the real presidents or any other people represented in the book? guy on the cover looks a bit romneyish. also i really enjoyed The Manhattan Projects having real people in it... very crazy versions though

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Hawkguy

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Thank you @missj for bringing the independent reviews weekly! It really helps considering I've lately started expanding my reading to indie titles.

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DonFelipe

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Edited By DonFelipe

Sounds interesting enough (for one dollar) though I'm not a fan of all these lines. Such lines were one of the reasons why I dropped Clone after a few issues.

First I thought it was Charles Soule and Rafael Albuquerque -- that would have been awesome!!! -- unfortunately it seems to be a different newcomer artist. I might still give it a try. You can't argue with that price!

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MissJ

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@cuddlebear: Former President Carroll is W, with no changes but name (and the letter contents). When everything else is so original, making the 43rd prez a guy with a rep for idiocy and a WMD scandal seems like a throwaway or a joke made a few years too late.

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MissJ

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@hawkguy: I'm so glad to hear it! I was purely Big 2 for most of my comics-reading life, but I am LOVING Image, Boom, ONI, etc lately.

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Hawkguy

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@missj: What are your top 3 series currently? Non-Big 2 of course

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MissJ

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@hawkguy: That's tough, especially when I think week-by-week sometimes!

EAST OF WEST and MANHATTAN PROJECTS are my favorite-favorites right now, but that third slot would go to either SAGA, NOWHERE MEN, SATELLITE SAM, or FATALE. If we count Vertigo as not-Big-2, TRILLIUM and AMERICAN VAMPIRE would pop into the running.

I should publish my pull lists somewhere, in read order -- that's a good marker of my priorities at a given moment.

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Mercy_

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Edited By Mercy_

Image has been KILLING it lately. Reading more from them than either of the Big Two, although that'll change once Elektra and Black Widow start shipping. The good stuff is outside of DC and Marvel right now, as far as I'm concerned. The pure range that's out there is incredible.

Going to have to pick this up.

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Hawkguy

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Edited By Hawkguy

@missj: Please do! I've just been starting, I've been reading East of West, Lazarus, Jupiter's legacy, six-gun gorilla (such a shame it's a mini) and I can't wait for velvet and pretty deadly next week! My pull is being taken over by indies and I'm loving it

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MissJ

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@hawkguy: AGH, I forgot about LAZARUS. That's a top-5.

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frankcal460

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I loved everything about this issue except for the fact that the Presidents are modeled after Bush and Obama. It shows a lack of creativity and makes me wonder what kind of political agenda the writer(s) will be pushing.

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Dud317

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@frankcal460: I agree that the mirroring was a bit of a turn off as well. However, I'm hoping that it's simply summarizing, more or less reflecting what the American public thinks. I don't see this as an agenda, rather than a mediocre attempt at rooting this story in present times. For me, it was a lack of creativity in the tone that the presidents were presented in, rather than a lack of creativity in their story and relationship.

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DonFelipe

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Edited By DonFelipe

I just finished reading Letter 44 #1. The story is absolutely amazing and one of the biggest reasons it is such a strong story is that Soule was ballsy enough to model the presidents after Bush and Obama and make it clear from the very beginning of the story that this could be the present-day US... hiding something else... again. Otherwise it would be just another story about an alien threat (and how some government would be dealing with it). I mean an alien threat is nothing new as far as story-telling goes. This story and the "what if...?" wouldn't be so intriguing and, more importantly, credible if the presidents weren't very similar to Bush & Obama. Like I said it would be just another story.

I can't wait for the next issue.

Is it just me or do we have an incredible amount of very good comics at the moment?