Letter 44 25 (May 2016)

Letter 44 #25

I think I just read my last issue of Letter 44, at least as a monthly. I’m not one hundred percent, but I’m a lot closer than I’ve been. Because this issue is where Soule shows just how good he is at dragging it all out. He’s really good at the pacing, bringing in just about everyone for this issue. There’s scene after scene with the Builders, the astronauts, the President, the reporter from a few issues ago. Then there’s this really manipulative cliffhanger and I just don’t care.

There needs to be a point to all the manipulation and there’s not. At least if Soule stuck with the Christian allegory stuff, he’d be doing something. Instead, he’s treading water. Lots of scenes, lots of exposition, a couple big pointless scenes (like the first one in the comic). If he can’t even work up enthusiasm for the story, why read it?

Letter 44 has always had one big disconnect–Soule’s a much better writer than Alburquerque is an artist. The book is all Soule. It’s a Soule-ful book, one might say.

Wokka wokka.

It’s not like Alburquerque swoops in and ups the art game to save it. The book’s wandered around too much, the characters are all jerks, who cares if the world blows up; at least they’d stop being jerks.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Letter 44 24 (April 2016)

Letter 44 #24

Reading Letter 44, I always wonder, with this issue be my last. Will Soule or Alburquerque do something I just can’t get onboard with. Usually, it’s never anything seismic so I get over it (Alburquerque’s Roman centurion garb for future soldiers) but Soule is tripling down with the religious “message” here. Message gets quotation marks because who cares if the whole thing is just God’s messengers saving some of humanity.

I mean, if I wanted to read some sci-fi along those lines, there’s always the Arthur C. Clarke Rama series of books. Soule doesn’t bring anything to the genre (Christian sci-fi). Even though he does get back to his “West Wing” knock-off a little bit, but it’s been too long. Letter 44 doesn’t get by on charm or ingenuity anymore. I read it because I’m a Letter 44 reader.

And this issue will not be my last. But the next one might be. It’s just too much. Soule’s drained all the humanity from the comic. It’s a bunch of scenes with people you sort of remember caring about at one point.

Oddly, the most startling thing about the issue isn’t the crucifixion imagery or the Jesus imagery… it’s Tupac cameoing in a flashback set in January 2004. Tupac, of course, died in September 1996. Maybe there’s a sci-fi God in the Letter 44 universe, which is fine, but if you’re going to bring in Tupac for a terribly edited cameo, make him surviving part of the comic.

Otherwise, teach the editor of the book how to use Wikipedia. Or Google. Or even Bing. Ask Siri. I don’t know. Something. Edit this book. It’s too late to fix it, but editing would still help a lot.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Letter 44 23 (February 2016)

Letter 44 #23

Soule has turned Letter 44 into a metaphor for space Jesus. It’s not a subtle metaphor. There are no subtle metaphors in Letter 44 anymore. There’s nothing subtle. And, as I read it from that resignation, the issue does amuse. Soule doesn’t push me off the book. He’s not too lazy, he’s not too obvious.

Because there is a lot going on in Letter 44 and Soule does keep it organized in a very understandable way. Soule’s storytelling techniques are still on display, just no engaging plotting ones. There’s nothing fresh about the series anymore. The plot developments no longer surprise.

Alburquerque’s art actually manages to be ambitious when Soule’s script doesn’t. Alburquerque tries to have the characters give performances. It’s not entirely successful but it’s energy. Letter 44 is on autopilot.

As usual, autopilot or not, I’ll be back for more, because Soule can impress. He can do excellent work. He’s done it on Letter 44. I want to read more of it because it’s good; I want it on Letter 44 because I miss being excited to read this book. It used to be a thrill and now I dread it.

And then end up not minding it as much as I thought I would.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Letter 44 22 (January 2016)

Letter 44 #22

Oh, come on. First of all, Alburquerque has seemingly forgotten how to draw President Blades. He who was the protagonist of Letter 44 when it seemed like it was going to be a better comic book. It’s distracting, Alburquerque forgetting, because it makes Blades seem even less like himself. Given he’s President over World War III after starting as an Obama stand-in, Soule and the book need everything they can get to try to convince the reader its the same character.

Because, really, Letter 44 feels like a TV show with a completely different tone in the second season. Except it’s been Soule. And this issue might be where he finally jumps the shark. After a sturdy and encouraging start, the book has descended into a mix of sci-fi tropes, but well applied. Until this issue. Soule throws out logic (oh, yeah, there was some science at the beginning too, right?) and goes for the melodrama.

Only, since none of these characters act the same or even look the same, there’s no melodrama to be had. It feels like a dumb soap opera and looks like a worse one. I don’t think Soule’s ever been so cheap with the characters before–Blades and the First Lady, I mean–he’s short-changed them for a dozen issues or more, but he’s never been cheap.

Until now.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Letter 44 21 (November 2015)

Letter 44 #21

Even with a fill-in artist (Ryan Kelly), Soule sticks to the Letter 44 standards. It’s a flashback issue, so he does a couple characters. It’s Letter 44 so there’s a lame cliffhanger.

The series didn’t always have lame cliffhangers. It used to have characters. When it had characters, those cliffhangers worked. Though I don’t think this one would work regardless. It’s some painfully obvious lionizing of one of the characters. Of course, this character doesn’t appear in his own flashback–I’m not hiding the name, I just can’t remember it–until those last few, bad pages. Otherwise, it’s good. The whole issue’s pretty good.

Kelly’s art matches the book’s unfortunate, cartoonish style, but Kelly’s got his composition and depth figured out. There are detail problems, but no visual flow ones.

Besides the lionized guy, the other flashback is the mission astronomer. How did he get on the mission and so on. It’s interesting to compare to the army guy’s flashback because the latter is all about the recruiter, not the recruited. It’s a nice contrast and Soule takes them both seriously.

Clearly, Soule cares about Letter 44, which is what always makes it so frustrating when it never manages to boil above the mediocre level anymore.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Ryan Kelly; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Letter 44 20 (September 2015)

Letter 44 #20

It’s all right. I mean, Soule is still carting the Dubya analogue around–turning him into a Bond villain, which (thanks to Alburquerque’s art) comes off like a cartoon. Not in a good way.

And Soule borrows quite a bit from every sci-fi book and movie where the Earth is faced with imminent disaster. Alburquerque hurts the more visual of those moments. Letter 44 has passed the point where I think about how Soule’s better scenes would play with better art. The last scene, though, the “surprise”–which might get Soule another ten issues out of the comic, which is incredible since this one was pretty solidly ready to go as the penultimate–it would be nice to see it with better art.

The most annoying thing about the issue is how much Soule utilizes his better parts of the comic book, only he doesn’t use them–the characters–he reminds the readers they cared about them. The first lady, whose own story arc was inexplicably flushed, pops up for a visual gag and it all of a sudden makes Letter 44 so much more engaging. It’s mercenary, obvious, but competent. It’s part of the cover price.

Like I said, it’s all right. I’ll complain about Soule writing half a comic with two and a half times too much story, I’ll complain about the art–which never will sync properly with the book–but I’ll be back every issue. Because Letter 44 hasn’t given up, even after the point its clear it isn’t going to hit big or get optioned by Hollywood. It won’t be the zeitgeist, it won’t be a series I go back and reread in ten years. But it’ll be a comic I fondly remember reading when it came out.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Letter 44 19 (August 2015)

Letter 44 #19

This issue of Letter 44 has a couple surprises. One of them is a surprise for a character–the reader having a surprise regarding that same character just a few pages before–the other is a surprise for the reader. So I guess three surprises near the end of the issue.

Soule’s got to do what he can to keep the interest going.

I’m not even being sarcastic. Even though this issue is better than usual–in all respects (Alburquerque’s final reveal page is hideous, however)–it’s still not back to the series’s original standards. Soule does give the President a little more to do here, but he still relies far too much on the Bush analogue. That guy isn’t an interesting character. Soule’s trying hard to make him driven insane by his principles but he can’t sell it.

So some interest is good. Even competently if manipulatively executed interest.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Letter 44 18 (July 2015)

Letter 44 #18

There’s a distressing glibness to this issue of Letter 44. Soule’s pushed so far past the reasoned, “West Wing” with aliens gimmick, he’s actually managed to bring the series out on the other side. Soule’s lost the verisimilitude. The comic might not need it, but it sure made Letter 44 a lot more ambitious.

The stuff Soule’s doing here? A “rematch” between the United States and Germany over World War II? It’s lame. For a number of reasons. Not least of which is Alburquerque doesn’t get any time with the battle. It’s done in summary. It’s a silly detail drug out.

At the same time, the space stuff is better this issue. A lot better, even with some lame characters and not great art.

Letter 44 has become an amusing comic book. It’s not fulfilling its potential. It’s still okay. It’s good to have some solid genial reads out there.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Letter 44 17 (June 2015)

Letter 44 #17

I wish Soule would slow down. This issue of Letter 44 coasts through–I also wish Alburquerque would get better. Even if he didn’t get better overall, on his full page spreads; if only he would get better at those pages. Because Soule loves using them for emphasis and the art on them doesn’t work out.

This issue has the most with the President in a while, but not enough. Soule’s split of plots–the President, the old President, the space mission–skips the most interesting for the least. And the least is the space stuff; Soule is drawing everything out but the adventures of the crew as they quietly deceive one another is boring. The political stuff is decent, the former President’s stuff not as much (Soule frames flashbacks in an interview).

Letter 44 is losing its toughness, losing Soule’s willingness to offend to provoke critical reaction.

Too bad.

CREDITS

Writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: