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Jeff Kromer has a look at the $1 debut issue of Oni's Letter 44.
Letter 44 is a political/science fiction thriller from writer Charles Soule (27, Thunderbolts) and artist Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque. This first issue has been published by Oni Press at the introductory price of only one dollar. My short review is; “It’s well worth a dollar, go and buy it.” If you need a little more than that then let me tell you this:
It’s a dollar, why are you still reading this?
Kidding. Outhouse Editorial prefers that I don’t aggressively ask the readership why they’re bothering with our content. So if you need more, here you go; Letter 44 #1 deals with the first few days of a new President’s administration. We’re introduced to President Stephen Blades, his Chief of Staff Elijah and, through the text of the titular letter, former President Francis Carroll. The content of the letter is the pitch for the series so I’m going to briefly SPOIL it here. If you’d rather be surprised just trust me and go spend the dollar.
President Carroll’s letter explains that seven years ago NASA detected some sort of extraterrestrial mining or construction operation on a distant asteroid belt. This fact, unknown to anyone but the highest administration officials, has influenced the President’s unpopular policies during his term. It also explains that a mixed team of scientists and military personnel are currently on their way to the site to try and determine the aliens' intent. The fallout of Blades’ reading the letter comprises the rest of the issue and I won’t be spoiling any of that.
Aside from a few Thunderbolts issues, I haven’t read much from Charles Soule, but he impressed me here. Blades is reading the letter by page 7 and things move quickly from there. There’s a delicate balance in writing a good first issue. It shouldn’t feel like just a bunch of set up, but also shouldn’t rush past things a reader might be interested in; Soule doesn’t do either here. The Chief of Staff guy is a little clichéd-weasely, but I’m hoping that doesn’t play out in a generic way. We meet some other characters, but I don’t want to spoil them. Suffice to say they’re written pretty well.
I have no familiarity with Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, though his style does remind me of someone that I can’t quite put my finger on. He does a nice job distinguishing between a large cast of characters and providing easily readable layouts for what amounts to a lot of people talking for the majority of the issue. The coloring was a bit wonky with regards to President Blades who is supposed to be black but sometimes not. Could have just been the quality of the digital review copy I received though, which was a little pixel-y.
Overall this was a good first issue with an engaging premise. I haven’t read it myself, but I assume the mix of aliens and politics would interest former Saucer Country readers. It also felt a little like an older Oni Press book, Resurrection, which was a post-invasion story with political elements. At a dollar this is an easy recommendation, but I’d be telling you the same thing at full price too.
Written or Contributed by Jeffrey Kromer
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