Review: Letter 44 Volume 1 by Charles Soule, Alberto Alburquerque

Letter 44 Volume 1: Escape VelocityLetter 44 Volume 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Short review: great book. Don’t let this linger on your shelf like I did, you’ll regret it.

The longer this story unfolds, the more tense and dramatic it becomes. I’m finding myself genuinely surprised at this – I’ve read a couple of other Soule joints and this level of control, of depth of research, wasn’t hinted at in his previous works. While interesting stories, the only surprises I felt during Strongman were at his adherence to old school Latin self-sacrificing hero dialogue. Whereas here I was surprised by the intrigues, the unexpected plot developments, and the layers to the characters.

I enjoyed the characters – they weren’t just drawn with good acting and emotions, but spoke with the varying degrees of familiarity that real people have. Not once did I sit back, palm my forehead and ask why the spirit of Geoff Johns had taken over the duties from Charles Soule?

The story’s pacing picks up slowly, and then when it gets really good and tense they start interleaving parallel plot thread in every few pages, just to make me itch even harder to keep reading faster, faster.

Holy fuck though, what a climax. Just when I thought I could see the glimpses of tedious cliches shining through, the creators give us a few more reasons to like where they’re headed. I want to read the shit out of this series now. What a setup, what a bunch of cool characters, and what a wonderful canvas on which to pull on these tasty threads.

I generally don’t think of Oni Press when I think great comics – for dog’s sake, they’re operated out of a creepy looking building in Northeast Portland. (I checked it on Google Street View – it actually doesn’t even have their name on it, which makes it seem like either an FBI front or some cult. Portland cultural shit is supposed to be cool, not sketchy.)

But if they keep this up – this shot would be a well-regarded title at Image, even these days.

And let me come back to the art for a second – this is the kind of linework I generally think of as sloppy, second-rate. But take another look – it’s got shades of Johm Layman from Chew, and it’s got colourists who really get the nuances of light and shadow. The overall effect is a dynamic, emotionally rich and energetic pace – I can almost see the characters leaping from panel to panel (especially the sex scene, which was tasteful).

In fact, let’s end this off with an examination of the women, shall we? Here’s a book with a space crew commanded by a woman, a president with a forceful and compelling First Lady, and sexual politics that I’d never thought I’d see done so egalitarian in any American-born cultural artifact. For a political thriller, this book isn’t ignoring the women; for a science fiction book, we’re right there in the best territory where it’s no biggie when women have as much to say about big events – and their own self-determination – as any of the men. It’s still a bit sausage-heavy, and there’s room for improvement, but this is a helluvan example of stepping in line with the modern era, not like half the shit coming out of DC that feels like Tea Party propaganda (though not as well thought out).

View all my reviews


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