LETTER 44 serves up an interesting contrast with its dual narrative; there's a wide world of wonder as we follow the team of The Clarke in their interstellar exploration, and there's a much smaller (but no less intriguing) stage here on Earth, where political drama unfolds in increasingly dangerous turns. The easy assumption -- that space is a scarier unknown than human nature -- is trumped with every issue; even as we see astronaut Pritchard get injured, it's not nearly as dramatic as the armed-to-the-teeth tactical teams being deployed.
Charles Soule gets a little bit philosophical with us this issue, dropping questions about the meaning of words like "alive." Not only are these questions thought-provoking -- do our words and constructs apply to extraterrestrial worlds and beings? -- but they're authentic to the characters he's been developing. The team of The Clarke includes in its ranks scientists who examine their surroundings and make educated guesses, but aren't afraid to admit when the bounds of their knowledge or language have been reached. And, while we might not have a full understanding of what's going on in this alien world (which seems to have an Earth-like atmosphere, plants, water, and such, but also some…shapes), we're not alone -- the astronauts are discovering this world with us. (Luckily for us, we're not in the line of fire quite like they are.)
Visually, this book isn't pulling me in as deeply as the scripting is. Individual elements on each page (like the extraterrestrial shapes) are interesting, but the composite pages just aren't my cup of tea, stylistically speaking. The art is certainly unique, but a little bit ink-and-shading-heavy for my tastes.
As adventure stories are wont to do, LETTER 44 is hurling us towards territory unknown. Issue #5 plants readers firmly at the precipice of discovery -- what is going on in space, exactly, and how will the high-tension domestic plot resolve? It's a solid set-up for the next issue, which will hopefully start supplying us with answers.