The spaceship Clarke has made it through the signal curtain and discovered the massive alien machine being assembled in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. But why is it being built, what is it for, and why is it shielded from Earth? Who are these aliens and what do they intend for our planet? Meanwhile President Blades continues to learn the extent to which he predecessor had prepared Earth's defences for a full-scale alien invasion in the near future, and the crew of the Clarke scramble to fix their ship's power supply which went down as soon as they passed the signal curtain. Letter 44 is a thoughtful, cerebral kind of comic that's doing a lot of table-setting in its second issue and won't be hurried into any big action set pieces - it'll get there in its own time, thank you very much! The only action you'll see in this issue is a misfire from one of the Clarke's crew members as they test out their new high-tech space guns. This kind of approach is certainly not a bad thing as it gives the reader the chance to see the story's high concept get fleshed out further and learn more about the characters. The issue opens with a fascinating monologue by new character Dr Portek (a Wilson Fisk lookalike) who goes through the possibilities of what the aliens aims could be. Charles Soule has thought a lot about how the situation so far is going to look to the characters and does an excellent job of both recapping the major events of the first issue and the directions the story could go in future issues - it's the smart man's recap page! Later on we see Portek's team's secret weaponry to fend off an alien attack and we get a brief respite of crowded panels of dialogue (Soule gives you value for money with this title by giving you a lot to read!) as artist Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque provides a few panels of his cool futuristic designs - loved the tank design. Meanwhile in space, the crew of the Clarke are dealing with a blackout as they try to restart their systems. The dialogue is fine but I wondered why the dialogue balloons were outlined in different colours. Some dialogue balloons are circled in yellow or red or green, and at first I thought it was to denote the different characters' speech, because they're in suits that are identical, but more than one character uses a colour so I'm a bit lost as to its meaning. Maybe there is none? There isn't much more to the space episode besides learning about the makeshift alternative society the group have created, knowing that their journey is a one-way trip - which also makes one of the scientist's pregnancy a puzzle. Why bring life on a seemingly doomed journey? Unless there's something we don't know, which is entirely possible this being only the second issue. The plot thickens... There is the misfire episode which is interesting because the panel before the gun misfires looks like the scientist has spotted something outside in space with them and has decided to shoot it, though we only see the character's bemused expression. Soule is brilliantly building up tension and reader intrigue by holding back on the alien reveal and taking events at their logical pace. That said, I think the issue doesn't have enough new material in it. As good as the first issue was, the second issue doesn't add much more to it. Yes there is further development of the situation, but little in the way of actual plot and it's what stops me raving about it like I did the first issue. The second issue boils down to the President learning more about this bizarre set-up, and the Clarke's crew getting power back, and in the end it doesn't feel like enough for an entire issue. Soule's writing is fine, Alburquerque's art is excellent, and the set-up is brilliant - I just want to see a bit more happening than characters going over more or less what we already know. Letter 44 might be the kind of series that works better in collected format rather than reading individual issues because I think in sequence this would read a lot better than read alone, purely because this issue is mostly a lot of buildup. As it is though, while issue #2 is a bit underwhelming there's plenty to like about it, and Letter 44 is definitely an above-average and original comic that's well worth looking into. Published by Oni, Letter 44 #2 by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque is out now
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