What began in a letter from one United States President to his successor has built up past the boiling point and the information contained in that letter led to the break out of World War III. Charles Soule’s warped political/sci-fi thriller continues in “Letter 44 Volume Three: Dark Matter” featuring art by Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque and published by Oni Press.
In the opening pages of this latest volume we find that cooler heads did not prevail. Instead the world has gone to war. The United States is fighting Germany, Russia, and England known as the Free Earth Alliance to see who will be the government to protect the Earth against a probable alien incursion. Everything devolved quickly thanks to the machinations of one man, former President Francis Carroll.
The plots centered on the mission of the astronauts of the Clarke as they meet the aliens and the failing Presidency of Stephen Blades progress in “Letter 44 Volume Three: Dark Matter” – it is the story of President Carroll that is the most intriguing of this volume.
For the first time Soule takes the story back to the discovery of the aliens’ incursion into Earth’s solar system and what President Clarke’s initial reaction to the discovery was. It was hope mustered by Carroll’s wife, First Lady Bridget Carroll. She helped keep him optimistic about the discovery of new life and that we were not alone. Carroll’s actions were always reflected by what she thought of him.
Carroll’s optimism did not last as anyone familiar with the “Letter 44” story knows. Soule explores the trigger for his change and what he does to push his agenda moving forward even as his second presidential term comes to a close. It is intriguing to see the strings that Soule has strung that Carroll is pulling throughout the story and how a once despised President is able to still have his hands on all the important buttons.
While the issues collected, “Letter 44” #15-20 (May-September 2015) in this story were written months ago, possibly more than a year, the parallels to the current presidential campaign are telling. From terrorist fear mongering to xenophobia the current climate feels like where the story of “Letter 44” begins. It is fear and ignorance that drives much of the narrative which makes the whole premise of “Letter 44” more realistic even as many of the plot twists and turns are exaggerations taken to unreal levels.
The exaggerations of the story are captured by the artwork of Albuquerque who is able to juggle a large cast of characters throughout the story while giving each a distinct look. The artwork is very expressive which enables the points the words are making to come across clearly. Each panel and page provides a good description that leads you through the story.
Dan Jackson’s colors on the artwork sometimes come across as a little flat or pale on the page. But the palette provides some good contrasts in the art that embellish and brighten up Albuquerque’s pencils creating a more active look to the story.
The entirety of the “Letter 44” story to this point has been a real page turner from the suspense and the intrigue and the excellent cliffhangers each chapter leaves off on, the third volume is no exception. Getting more of the Carroll story helps round out the story and discovering just what an ass he really is gives a different perspective on the Presidency his successor. Over the course of the first two volumes Carroll’s presidency could be categorized as misunderstood and built on misguided actions. Now the view has changed and it can be seen as a self serving reach to get unlimited power. The hysteria and intolerance work to hide what he is truly after.
The 160 page “Letter 44” Volume Three is on sale now retailing for $19.99.