Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Letter 44

I keep wiffle-waffling on Letter 44.  On one hand, it's a fun, speculative science-fiction/conspiracy theory comic.  Yay!  On the other hand, it treads ground worn smooth by legions of sci-fi authors previously.  On the other other hand, it's wonderfully drawn and inked.  Yet it lacks subtlety and some of the action was muddied.

Okay, premise: New president comes into his office and receives a letter addressed to "44" (his number in the Presidential line).  It's from the previous president, a fellow named George W. Bush Carroll, to his successor, a young and charismatic Barack Obama
guy named Blades.

I wasn't quite sure what to think of this.  Is it supposed to be funny?  It sure is transparent.  There's probably some sort of Secret Service rule against writing about the current President unless it's nonfiction.  Why not just say Bush and Obama and be done with it?  Or change their characteristics at least a tiny bit!  I mean, Blades' beautiful and smart wife, his battle to save the economy ... spare me the recent history lesson, please.  You can riff on something and then you can lift something.  I'd rather have a riff, if you please.

That element of the story was extremely distracting for me.  So much so that I almost didn't notice it when the giant-alien-what-is-it? popped into the storyline and suddenly we were out in space with the crew of an American mission to make contact with the aliens and figure out just what they're doing out there around Jupiter.

Hint: Probably nothing good.  But you, being smart, guessed that already.  A crew of several guys and two women are zooming out through space.  And PLOT TWIST one of the women is pregnant, but they don't know the father.  It seems that all the guys made some sort of pact to raise the child as their own, no matter who the biological father was.  This makes me wonder: was this planned?  Is there some sort of race to have the first baby born in space?  WHY would you do this?  These astronauts know that they probably won't survive.  Why would they create another human being who would die with them?  This makes zero sense to me.  None.  Zip.

So ANYWAY.  They're zooming towards the aliens.  Then they get to the aliens, who conveniently have a sort of cloaking device (what sort of self-respecting alien race wouldn't have a cloaking device???  Klingons do.) to cover up their probably-nefarious deeds.  The astronauts decide to EVA because ... I have no idea why.  They have to fix their ship, I think.  The aliens broke it like a wee toy.  So.  EVA in an alien presence?  Great idea, guys!  Wait, what's this portal thingy?  Oh, I think I should just tootle on through there.

Seriously.  Where did they find these people?  Clearly the government picked the most clueless astronauts and scientists to go on this mission.  Hello?  What about the scientific method?  Observation?  How about a little common sense like, "DON'T TOUCH THE ALIEN THINGY!"  It's right up there in conventional wisdom with "Don't touch the hot stove."  Duh.  Two of the astronauts die, although I seriously only remember one of them.  The other guy?  No clue.  I found this action-skip to occur in a few places in the comic.  I am reading an ARC so it's very possible this will be amended.

However, I am tempted to pick up volume two when it launches just to see where the author and illustrator take this story.  It was really well-drawn; I just wish that the story were up to the artwork.  I won't be holding my breath for this one, though.


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