Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity
Story: Charles Soule
Art: Alberto Alburquerque
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Shaw DePasquale
Publisher: Oni Press
Release date: July 30th, 2014
On Inauguration Day, newly elected President Stephen Blades hoped to tackle the most critical issues facing the nation: war, the economy, and a failing health care system. But in a letter penned by the outgoing President, Blades learns the truth that redefines “critical”: seven years ago, NASA discovered alien presence in the asteroid belt, and kept it a secret from the world. A stealth mission crewed by nine astronauts was sent to make contact, and they’re getting close – assuming they survive the long journey to reach their destination.
Today, President-elect Blades has become the most powerful man on the planet. This planet.
Though I love superhero comics, there’s something about finding other genres among the racks and the great stories within. Image Comics dominates in the non-superhero field, I think, but Oni Press joined the fray with this sci-fi gem.
Letter 44 starts with a pretty striking premise: President Blades is in the process of settling into his new job, and while he expects to deal with all the big issues, there’s one secret that pretty much blows everything apart. There are aliens in our solar system, and a team of astronauts was sent to make contact and figure out what the hell is going on.
The story itself is pretty straightforward and split between two narratives: President Blades dealing with the news, and the people actually on the mission itself. Blades’ storyline is decent, though it feels a little been there, done that. There are stealth missions, sneaky underlings, assassinations, all that fun stuff you get when watching most political thrillers. What works for me, and this is mostly a personal preference, is what’s happening out in space.
It’s hard to discuss what goes on in the spacecraft without spoiling the entire volume, even though there are bits where I kind of just want to wave my hands about and yell IS ANYONE ELSE READING THIS WHAAAAAAT IS HAPPENING? There are relationships, there are secrets being kept from those on Earth, there are first contacts and weird illusions and different aspects of the relationships between each astronaut being explored.
The only thing working against Escape Velocity is that it has to set up this entire premise, and while it does get some story work done and pushes the mystery of the aliens forward and ups the tension, there’s still too much world building and too much of a focus on President Blades. I like the comparison between his very grounded problems and the otherworldly issues of the mission team, but…I’m here for the sci-fi. More crazy alien sh*t, please! More space! More answers that only lead to more questions!
I’ve enjoyed where Letter 44 has brought us so far, and honestly, I can’t wait to see where the story takes us. Soule has set up a great mystery and I’m hooked.
This volume was provided in advance from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected the outcome of this review.