Letter 44 Volume 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque
|Letter 44 Volume 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque|
|Category: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A brilliant premise kicks this intelligently wrought drama into high gear from the start.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 144||Date: July 2014|
|Publisher: Oni Press|
I guess we don't always think of the President of the USA as someone who is thrown into the deep end on day one, given his retinue of advisors and aides. But this one is – when being inaugurated as the 44th POTUS, Stephen Blades gets a letter from the outgoing premier. He – and we – learn that the prior two terms, when America was busy fighting in the eastern hemisphere and not getting her economy into gear, were pretty much just a cover-up. The military presence and lack of economic benefit at home was purely due to something a long way away – the discovery of something being manufactured by aliens within our own asteroid belt. Due to some cloaking technology little is known about what is up there – and that applies to our own response, too – the ultra top secret mission we've sent up, both scientific and military, to have a closer look. Welcome to the job, Mr President.
That's surely the USP of this title – the way the American President shares our view, as a fish out of water in being unaware of one of the world's hugest possible conspiracies. As he learns the difficulty of serving in his job when so much is at stake behind the scenes we also see the astronauts, who have developed their own slightly unusual society – certainly unusually for regular sci-fi the population is not sticking to strict scientific/military divisions. There are sci-fi tropes – the ramshackle craft being held together by maverick-minded engineers, and a lack of real hard science when it comes to some aspects of space life, but this isn't strictly a sci-fi book.
What it brought to mind for me was the brilliant Ex Machina, which was before this in a category of one for bringing to genre comics an American politician worth reading about. There he was a super-power all to himself as he had a super-power; here Blades is simply one more sheen on a glossy cover-up, however hard he tries to feel a way to altering that fact. As a result we don't really need the artist's slightly OTT character design, but that's the nearest thing to a flaw that could concern one with the artwork. With the script – well, there's the brilliant premise, and the excellent presentation of it. There was the slight issue of us never meeting the ninth member of the crew, until his being mourned, but I guess that's par for the course in a world when nobody is on a sure footing due to those pesky aliens, and in a graphic novel intelligent enough to leave some gaps for us to fill.
It does pretty much cover all bases, in that it has action scenes, relationship issues, and an underpinning commentary about how America, despite any of its leaders' best intentions, can be quite weak, ineffective and reactive. What is also clear is that any reader would be very reactive to a book of this quality – there is a long way to go in this series after the first six episodes gathered here, but this launch collection is full of compelling reading, making it one of the brighter new creations in comics of recent years.
I must thank the publishers for my review files.
A very different exploratory journey can be had with Manifest Destiny Volume 1 by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni.
You can read more book reviews or buy Letter 44 Volume 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Letter 44 Volume 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque at Amazon.com.
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