From time to time, I come across an independent or small press comic that really blows my mind with humor and art. Locke and Key was one such experience. Unit 44 is another.
Unit 44 (Alterna Comics)
Written by Wes Locher
Illustrated by Eduardo Jiménez
The artistic style of this book is very bright, simple, and playful, which really matches the silly story and humor. Rather than being realistic the characters are caricatures, and drawn two dimensionally, in a style reminiscent of Archer. The color palette continues the cartoon theme, using lots of bright primary colors. Even panels in which the characters are in dark, federal offices or interrogation rooms, the grays and blacks are broken by bright hair colors or even surprising uses of blue and violet.
The plotline of the book is amusing. A federal agent in the Area 51 top secret location forgets to pay the rent for an offsite storage unit that contains not only lots of proof of alien existence, but also the energy source for a new space ship. Of course, in the way of things, the unit is sold to some hillbillies who are looking for shop stock to put in their second hand store, which begins a hilarious romp as the agents of Area 51 attempt to reclaim the missing goods. I think that the Area 51 conspiracy theories are pretty universally known by now, but I think fans of the X-Files will find this book particularly amusing.
Where this book really shines is the humor. It’s been a long time since I actually laughed out loud at a comic book, but this one had me laughing and reading out lines to friends sitting nearby (much to their annoyance). The agents talk a lot of (clean) smack, and many of their one-liners are cultural references in the tradition of Space Balls, or just goofiness in a Monty Python-esque fashion.
The wrap up of the series does spoil itself quite a bit, breaking the suspense, which was an interesting plot device, but a little bit disappointing. I think that although I would have preferred to allow the story to unfold in its own time, that this style of reveal did fit the rest of the writing style.
Overall, this four part miniseries is good fun, an easy, smart read, and a huge surprise. Definitely something you will want to check out and maybe even pass along.
Four and a half out of five Death Stars.
– by Tracy