The tension takes a slight back seat this issue, replaced instead by stealthy agents and alien action.
ONI Press. Soule, Alburquerque, Jackson.
This is just one of those books that can’t come out fast enough as far as I’m concerned, and as I’m sure reading it in trade would be very rewarding, there’s also something to be said for the levels of tension that build up between issues. While previous issues have used the all-encompassing fear of the unknown to great affect, issue 5 relies on the simple fact that knowing what exactly what you fear is not always better.
Taking readers away from the ramifications of last issues cliffhanger, the earthbound side of Letter 44 involves a stealthy espionage mission to- well, that would be telling, and writer Charles Soule leaves that information to the very last page. Suffice to say they’re met with more than enough resistance to make what they’re really after seem extremely important. The pacing of these sections is just right, and the pay-off is worth spending the entire issue in the dark, even if you kind of wish they’d got there sooner just to see what happens next.
President Blades has only got one scene in this issue but it’s a great one, seemingly closing a door on one story aspect in a very satisfying manor. It’s unusual that he’s not in the issue more but after how last issue ended it’s not surprising that the focus be more directed to the deep space crew of the Clarke.
Without spoiling anything about last issue or indeed this one, it’s safe to say that things have never looked darker for the astronauts. They find themselves in a very alien situation (literally and figuratively) and once again Pritchard, the ever-curious scientist, gets himself and his crew mates in serious trouble. I mean really, has no one ever told him what curiosity did to that cat?!
Soule makes a point to inform readers just how far away from Earth the team is at one point – 178,899,876 miles to be precise – in order to realistically convey how alone and stranded they really are, and that really is the crux of this book. By tethering itself to the real world so strongly, Letter 44 manages to maintain a relatable level of tension and fear. We’ve all seen comic book characters in worse situations even further away from home than this, but the point is that this isn’t a bunch of superheroes on a day trip to Venus, this is a group of normal people on a one-way reconnaissance mission to an extraterrestrial asteroid, where merely communicating with Earth has a 30 minute delay, so receiving help is a blatant impossibility.
Alburquerque’s art is at it’s usual high standard, and he even gets to flex his muscles by drawing things and locations so far unseen in this book. Likewise Dan Jackson’s colours get a real work out here too, as the contrast between the activities on Earth and Space have never been so different.
All in all this is still a book I can’t recommend highly enough. I have no idea where the story is going from one issue to the next, and I’m looking forward to this book each and every week it comes out. Now begins the wait for issue 6!