"Unit 44 #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Written by Wes Locher
Illustrated by Eduardo Jimenez
Despite what the government has told us about it, Area 51 remains a haven for alien seekers around the world. We don't know what exactly happened there or if it was really just a weather balloon, but this small New Mexico town has inspired a ton of great science fiction. Unit 44 looks to join those ranks with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. It follows Agents Gibson and Hatch as they try to clean up the mess they've made after they forget to pay for the Area 51 off-site storage unit. The contents are sold at open auction and now they have to track down all kinds of confidential items before the locals get their hands on them.
You get a feel for both characters right off the bat. Gibson is a bit of a screw-up and he's the one that's ultimately responsible for the missed payments on the storage unit. Hatch is a by-the-book tough guy and a bit of a bully. They make for an interesting team as they have to try to investigate the whereabouts of the stuff from the storage unit in a town filled with paranoid rural folk that don't trust the government. Hatch can't just muscle his way through these people to get answers. Instead it involves a bit of subterfuge.
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In an effort to blend in, they don street clothes and try to chat up the locals. This works fine for Gibson, but Hatch refuses to take off his suit. Instead he puts on a pair of overalls on top of the suit. It's almost painfully awkward as Gibson tries to explain his strange friend to the townspeople.
The humor in Unit 44 borders on ridiculous but always stays fun. There's a steady stream of funny with solid jokes. It could have devolved into redneck drawls and fart gags, but it stays above that. The overall idea that Area 51 would keep an off-site storage unit filled with all kinds of weird alien junk is pretty awesome. There are corpses, advanced weaponry, and what looks like a Transformer all piled in cardboard boxes. So much for that big warehouse that you saw in X-Files.
Eduardo Jimenez's artwork is perfectly suited for Unit 44. It has a cartoonish flare while maintaining a serious tone. The characters can sometimes look rather stiff though, as if they're posing instead of moving. This is especially apparent when Hatch and Gibson are walking. They look like they're striking a pose on a runway instead of casually strolling down the street. There's also a moment towards the end of the issue where one of the auction winners clearly grabs a six-shooter and in the next panel (on the same page), he's holding a shotgun.
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Jimenez has some excellent art direction throughout this issue. There are some great panel layouts and in some instances, he gets creative with the transitions between sections. For example, when Gibson first explains the situation to their boss, the break between the panels is crumbling, as if the page is feeling the bombshell he just dropped.
Unit 44 is a downright fun comic, which is something that is unfortunately a rarity in the funny book industry today. It takes a subject that has been conspiracy-laden for years and filled with all types of serious tales like the X-Files, and pokes fun at it in a way that makes total sense.