Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque

Letter 44 25 (May 2016)

Letter 44 #25I 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 #24Reading 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 #23Soule 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 #22Oh, 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 20 (September 2015)

Letter 44 #20It’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 18 (July 2015)

Letter 44 #18There’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 16 (May 2015)

Letter 44 #16I really hope the Builders didn’t build the Chandelier to zap a huge asteroid about to hit Earth, saving us from extinction when all we could do was imagine we needed to war against these benevolent visitors.

Because it would be really lazy writing from Soule and this issue of Letter 44 isn’t lazy. The art’s still got problems and Soule’s soft cliffhanger is goofy, but everything else is rather solid. It’s just hard to adjust to it, because–after jumping forward in time last issues–Soule sort of waited until this issue to continue the story he started the series with.

He’s got a fun scene for the President and a truly awesome one for the first lady. Alburquerque really drops the ball on the latter.

It’s not a perfect issue. It’s rushed, both in terms of the narrative and the art. The cliffhanger. But it’s often quite good.

CREDITS

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

Letter 44 15 (April 2015)

Letter 44 #15Well. Soule jumps three months ahead in Letter 44 and entirely skips anything with the regular President. The former President (you know, Bush) is running the war against America from Europe, which is kind of funny. Wonder if he eats Freedom Fries. It’s kind of bad, kind of not. Soule is using up all his stockpiled good will, especially since Alburquerque’s art has somehow gotten worse.

There’s some flashback to the discovery of the aliens and it’s boring. I think it’s basically the trailer from Contact. Or maybe The Arrival. And when Soule gets back to outer space, it reminds of Arthur C. Clarke and so on. The astronauts are now in an alien zoo.

The space stuff is definitely more interesting than the Earth stuff, but it’s still stretching thin. Hopefully Soule will figure out something to do with the comic, because Letter 44 seems aimless at this point.

CREDITS

Dark Matter, Part One; writer, Charles Soule; artist, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque; colorist, Dan Jackson; letterer, Crank!; editor, Robin Herrera; publisher, Oni Press.

Letter 44 13 (December 2014)

Letter 44 #13Soule frames the issue around a speech from the President, revealing the existence of the aliens. He’s also got some scenes in space–the majority of those scenes are useless by the end of the issue–and some earthbound political intrigue.

He also has the United States and Germany going back to war and nothing happens from it. It’s an exceptionally interesting idea, one with a lot of promise, but Soule just uses Germany as this little group of villains. It’s a strange misstep, given how smart the rest of Soule’s political intrigue usually goes.

And the stuff in space isn’t great. The issue has some of Alburquerque’s best art at the beginning during a boxing match, but then the encounter with the aliens is poorly illustrated. There’s no depth or perspective to the art.

As for the aliens… Hopefully Soule has something more going than what he does here.

B 

CREDITS

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

Letter 44 12 (November 2014)

Letter 44 #12Soule does an agitating bridging issue–sort of a ramping up of certain things. He resolves a storyline–the two soldiers in Afghanistan–while teasing things to come. There’s a bit with the First Lady, less with the President, a little bit with Germany (in his only conceptual misstep, Soule writes the German chancellor as a power hungry psychopath, just like their most famous chancellor). The outer space stuff is incidental… if it weren’t for the text recap, I might have forgotten about the baby being in crisis.

But as an agitating issue, Soule’s focus is to keep the reader interested while delaying giving them anything. The First Lady threatens her foe… not particularly engaging. The President just looks dumbfounded. The German chancellor comes off as dumb. Only the soldier scenes resonate and then they’re over done.

Alburquerque is rather lazy with composition this issue. His pacing is all wrong.

B 

CREDITS

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

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