I started promising that I would finish off certain long-finished comic stories I had started but never got to the end to for a while. This year, I went with Invincible and Letter 44. I finished Invincible not that long ago, and it was very much worth the trip.
Would Letter 44 also end strongly? Well, I just finished the sixth and final volume, appropriately subtitled The End, and I have some thoughts on this final volume and the series as a whole.
OK, so, here’s the thing: the threat to planet Earth was never going to be annihilated. The planet was going to be doomed from the start. The real question was would there be a way for anyone at all to survive, especially after the Builders reneged on their deal to save 666 people chosen by President Blades. So, really, shouldn’t there be an aura of doom hanging over this final trade?
Well…no, there isn’t. This may be, for lack of a better way of explaining it, the most hopeful and optimistic view of the end of the world I have ever read. I haven’t always been on-board with this series. I never disliked it or anything, but the artwork rarely worked for me, and no matter what happened, I could never really keep too much track of who the different people on the spaceship were. Maybe if I read the series in a more timely manner that wouldn’t have been the case, but even after the previous volume spent the entire volume giving backstories to all of those characters, I still never as a reader felt much of a connection to them.
That said, the parts of the plot that dealt with President Blades generally did work very well for me, and writer Charles Soule, who I believe was a lawyer before he took to writing comics, does have a good grasp on the legal and political stuff going on back on Earth. Blades, as a character, is both a somewhat realistic and somewhat idealistic politician. Modeled a bit after Barack Obama, he’s a man who believes in leveling with the people while at the same time using his natural public speaking skills to inspire people to greatness. The fact that he does, after a fact, prevail while never giving up says a lot.
So, in the end, Soule’s work shows a planet that, for the most part, decides to go out in the most hopeful manner possible. Rather than give in to despair, the people decided to celebrate life with a handful of exceptions. And yeah, the story did find a way to save some portion of humanity, but it really did come across as most people decided to celebrate what we had rather than dread what was coming. All that and something like a celebration of the American form of government.
That said, there was one other thing that didn’t sit well with me for this series as a whole, and that was something involving poor timing. This series, as a whole, aged in a way I don’t think anyone involved saw coming when the character of President Carroll (something of a George W Bush stand-in) spent most of the series essentially refusing to give up his position, attempting to take over the government in his own way to somehow, as he puts it, save the day. Seeing a president essentially refuse to give up his power and still have loyal followers following his instructions in a manner that works to undermine a democratically-elected successor…man, that sure did sound familiar. Yes, Carroll is ultimately defeated in this one, and there is a part of me what would suspect that Joe Biden might not mind doing something like Blades does to his predecessor on some level, but it still was a plotline that I doubt Soule knew would have such different meanings in 2022 than it did when he finished the series.
Still, I ended up if not loving Letter 44, at least I ended up greatly enjoying it and glad I read it.
9.5 out of 10 sacrificial National Security Advisors for the trade.
8.5 out of 10 destructive energy waves from beyond for the series.