Science Fiction Meets the Buddy Comedy: Unit 44
By Zoe Howard On 23 Sep, 2017 At 10:24 PM | Categorized As Books, Comics/Manga, Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments

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Unit 44 is the story of two Area 51 agents who work out of the base in Nevada. The book follows Agents Hatch and Gibson as they discover Gibson has neglected to pay for Unit 44. The storage unit contains Area 51 secret technology and a few other items that they had no space to store on the base. The unit was sold at auction due to lack of payment to two men who run a second-hand shop. What was at stake? After a yelling from their superior, they embark on their mission to reclaim what they have lost. The truth behind Roswell, New Mexico infamous alien crash.

From the get-go, we discover that the agents are not your average serious agents. One could essentially call them the Rocksteady and Bebop of federal agents. Their intelligence is very low and they spend a lot of time bickering between each other. The whole book feels much as you would expect, a mismatched buddy comedy with a Sci-Fi twist. We never really learn a lot about either Hatch or Gibson other than a few home life jokes. They are serviceable as protagonists but they serve no main development arch of any kind. They are no different at the end than they are at the beginning.

I want to take a moment and talk about the beginning. Considering this book is only 106 pages (94 actual story pages) they shove a lot of story into it, so much that they never give any time to the characters. You are given no introduction other than that these two are the people at the beginning of the book. They just show up and within a few panels of dialog, we are off on our kooky adventure. To say this feels rushed is an understatement. When I went back over the book to clear up some stuff there was a moment I missed on the first page because I was thrown into everything so fast I tossed it aside. Typically I would shrug such a thing off but it comes into play later with a big reveal that meant nothing to me because I was trying to acclimate myself to the world and characters.

This is probably one of the biggest faults of the writing. The main characters have zero development. Reflection upon finishing the book made me realize the only character who had somewhat of a story arch was the human antagonist. That might be why the ending payoff works as well as it does for them, but it also means the end of the book just means ok done for Hatch and Gibson. If this was a later book in a series I could let this pass, but seeing as it is our introduction to the universe it leaves me asking the question of why? Because the author says so? That is not a solid reason to keep reading.

There are some fun characters to be had in the story. The main alien itself was one of the unique characters as far as the writing goes. The character Lindsey is also one of the more entertaining even if her motives and reasons for doing things are never clear. There are also some genuinely funny moments in the book. I can remember at least a dozen that actually had me laughing out loud at something that happened. It was moments like that that made the bad jokes even worse. For almost every good joke there was an equally horrible joke or reference that just made me groan. Most of the bad ones came from really poor uses of pop culture references; The worst being a Sir Mix-A-Lot reference.

So I haven’t spent any time at all discussing the art of the book yet. There is actually a reason for this. I prefer saving the best for last. Unit 44 excels with its art. It even held up a lot of the characters when the writing fell flat. Most everyone in the book sounds like they have the same voice. There was very little difference between the characters dialog. (BTW I live in Nevada. Even the cowboys here don’t speak with southern accents. ) It was often the expressions and looks of the characters themselves that give the attitudes and personality that the dialog often lacked.

The style itself felt like a mix of many 90s era cartoons. Most notably for me was a heavy influence from the Men in Black cartoon series as well as the Clerks cartoon. There is also a heavy inclusion of anime style where emotional characterization is used with many over the top expressions that really do a great job blending into the often more subdued drawings.

The coloring is also a great style for this book. They rarely use any bright colors. Sticking to more muted pallets gives the book a very classic feel. The few uses of bright color they do use are often for either dramatic effect or when using some form of technology. There were a few moments where it didn’t quite feel like an action was conveyed or a scene jumped abruptly, but this was few and far between.

If I were to comment on a flaw in the art it would have to be what I could only assume was the rewards from the Kickstarter. There are a few characters in the book who have way more detail and look more realistic than the rest of the cartoonishly-styled characters. When I first read the book I had no clue it was Kickstarted. I went to the Kickstarter page and discovered some of the backers did have the option for characterization in the book. I just don’t know why they make them look so drastically different from the everyone else. As someone who had no clue about the Kickstarter, the characters just came across as gratuitous and out of place.

Overall I found myself with mixed feelings about Unit 44. The dialog (mostly the rapid jokes) was often a grind to get through but I still found myself compelled to read on. There is a spark of originality to the book that made me interested in where the adventure was going. Despite the lack of real information about the characters, I could see getting into this world and its people through a series. It would be fun to see how the writing develops. If you are looking for a more well-rounded character story then you might be in for a little letdown. If you are looking for a quick read with some laughs, then I would say give it a go.

Review copy of the book provided by the publisher.

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