Secrets abound in America, but none on the scale as those revealed in the pages of Charles Soule's "Letter 44," a series where humanity finds the stars hold not just ambition, but a threat kept hidden.
The first issue of the series published by Portland, Oregon-based Oni Press Inc. was released Wednesday. It's illustrated by Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, colored by Guy Major, lettered by Shawn DePasquale and edited by Jill Beaton.
Soule says the new series is a measured essay on the human spirit, and the quest for knowledge knowing that there is life up there and it may not be friendly.
The story centers on President Stephen Blades who is told about the existence of an alien presence kept secret for years by his predecessor. It's in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, it's unclassifiable, it won't communicate and it may be girding for war.
From there, it's one truth after another and it changes everything for Blades as a leader, citizen, father and person.
Soule said the idea sprang forth in early 2011 about the time "when it was pretty clear that the last space shuttle mission was going to happen soon. The U.S. as a space power was going to change, dramatically."
Inspired by that change, he was walking along the beach in Cape May, New Jersey, and pondering what it would take for America, among others, to get back to the stars.
"I wanted to write the story about what we could do and, if we really need to, could we get back up there? What would be the incentive? In the 1960s, it was the Cold War and the space race," Soule said. "What could take us up there? The idea of aliens being up there, and then it all fell into place."
And so it does, with Soule's story focusing not just on Blades and the political ramifications of knowing what's up there, but also the crew of the spaceship Clarke, which is poised to make the first, human contact with whatever is there.
Soule said the pieces of both plots will come together, over the course of the series, and "everything will make sense," he says. "Even some of the weird stuff."