The new President of the United States, Stephen Blades, gets the traditional “welcome to the job” letter from the outgoing POTUS, and while he expects the usual words of encouragement and advice that one president gives to another, he gets something entirely different: aliens are out there in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and they have plans for Earth. Moreover, that president, President Carroll, spent his entire term funding a secret space mission to the asteroid belt as well as R&D of new weapons and deliberately started wars in the Middle East so that he could increase the size of the U.S. military in order to prep for what he thinks is an alien invasion.
In addition to what Blades is going to do with this information and how he is going to handle his time in office–especially considering that we find out pretty early on that Carroll is trying to secretly run things anyway–that secret mission to outer space, via The Clarke, is the focus of the series. By the time Blades takes office, they have reached the asteroid belt and have found that whomever these aliens are have constructed a huge device they’ve nicknamed “The Chandelier” (and they have nicknamed the aliens “The Builders”). They, and we, have no idea whether or not The Builders are here to help us or hurt us.
I don’t want to give more away than that because as the series goes on, the reasons for The Builders’ presence in our solar system become clear and the crew of The Clarke interact with them and are fundamentally changed by them in what winds up being a very well-told and well-constructed 35 issues. This was my introduction to Charles Soule, who has also written his fair share of superhero comics for Marvel and DC–and I picked the series up with the first issue back in 2013 after seeing the solicit in Previews. I stuck with it the entire time, although I will admit that during its publication, there were times when I considered dropping the book because I thought it was slowing down in the middle or that I was getting confused.
Alas, I’m glad I stuck with it and glad that I put reading through this entire series issue by issue on my “to read” this when starting this blog. While I was half checked-out while reading some of the run the first time, going through all 35 issues (which is available in six trades) was so much fun and I blew through all of it over the course of a few days (stopping only because I ran out of time to read). Soule deftly builds the intrigue of political conspiracy and secrets that Blades has inherited, giving us a hero in a president who is doing his best to be the upstanding leader the country needs while giving us a villain in Carroll, who claims to be doing the right thing but is ultimately serving his own desire for power. He also takes time to develop the individual crew members of The Clarke, taking just about every seventh issue to break from the present-day storyline and provide us with a flashback that shows us how the project (“Project Monolith”) was created and how the crew was assembled (these stories, btw, are collected in the fifth tpb).
It’s a complete story that anyone who is a fan of science fiction should read and it’s readily available–the trades are still in print and Comixology has the entire series and trades at an affordable price as well as part of its Comixology Unlimited plan (well issues #1-19, anyway). Purchasing these things isn’t in my gameplan for the moment, so I may hang onto this until I can justify buying all six trades and then selling the single issues, but it’s definitely one to hold onto and reread a few more years down the line (and maybe even cover on a podcast).
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?