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Aliens: Defiance #1 [Review]

aliensdefiance0001Episode One: Derelict

Script: Brian Wood
Art: Tristan Jones
Colors: Dan Jackson
Lettering: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Massimon Carnevale
Publisher: Mike Richardson
Editor: Spencer Cushing
Designer: Cindy Calcerez-Sprague
Digital Art Technitian: Conley Smith
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Date: April 2016
Cover Price: $3.99

My earliest exposure to Aliens was the final battle with the Queen at the end of the 1986 film, that I saw accidentally, wandering out one time to where Dad had fallen asleep watching it or whatever preceded it. Several years later, I came across and read the novelization of Alien3, which led to me seeing that film (my first-ever R-rated film sought out!), and in turn led to “backtracking” to the others. I also recall at some point realizing I had read the novelization of the first film at some point without ever realizing when I read it that it had anything to do with any movie. I also came across the novels that expanded the Aliens universe, and which I eventually came to learn were themselves based on comics. It would be a few more years before I ever got around to getting to read those original comics–particularly the first ‘trilogy’. While I’ve “lapsed” over the years, the last few years I have been quite interested to learn of any Aliens comic series, and occasionally lament that it’s not a truly ongoing property (while realizing that it works better with finite stories). As a gamer, I’m pretty lax, and have not played the recent game with Ripley’s daughter, though I’ve been told a fair bit of the story (sadly, not consciously retained). But hey…comics, right?

So here I am…brand new long-form Aliens story kicking off, its cover putting me a bit in mind of a/the video game, and intrigued at what I BELIEVE to be at least a 12-issue saga–perhaps the longest single Aliens story I’ve been a part of as a fan (not getting into the comics until about a decade ago). I know Brian Wood‘s name from some prior stuff I’ve read/sampled–Northlanders, DMZ, The Massive–and been aware of his name on stuff like Star Wars more recently…so that’s a welcome factor for a new Aliens series. Icing on the cake is art by Tristan Jones, who I became aware of with his work on the Tales of the TMNT title from original TMNT publisher Mirage a few years back, and have loved seeing his work on various other projects since…and whose visual style seems a perfect fit to me for the Aliens property.

This issue is a first issue, giving us basically a brief paragraph of context/setup before we’re launched into the thick of things. We meet Zula Hendricks, a private involved in a mission to a derelict spacecraft. She and her fellow marines encounter Xenomorphs, and the situation does not go well. She and a synthetic survive, though she quickly learns that the synthetic is acting against programming, and her own world is changing as a result.

The story is good, for what it is. Which is not meant to be a negative statement…but this is only the first chapter of a multi-issue arc, that I believe is a year-long, so this is hardly going to be a full story in and of itself, nor is it giving everything away. And a single issue isn’t really enough space to re-introduce readers to a property, introduce new characters and detail their history, recent past, and present while also showing the scope of the property and of space and the horrors of the Xenomorphs. But we do get a fair bit packed into this, with Zula’s introduction and some flashbacks, a cameo of Amanda Ripley (which I believe thusly situates this time-wise somewhere between the first and second films), the synthetic Davis, some context for Zula and her place in things, and the final-page reveal of what seems to be the “mission” of this particular series…piquing my interest such that I almost wish this was a weekly series, because waiting another month for the next tidbit seems far too long. It’s not a cliffhanger in and of itself, but more a concept that promises a lot of great stuff, and I want to see it developed and played out, and be along for the ride.

Jones’ visuals are a great fit for this story, providing a great overall feel for this issue. His style is–as said above–very well suited for this property, and gives a gritty, dark, creepy look to the Xenomorphs and their brand of violence. The humans/humanoids come across as I would expect, while exuding whatever it is that just FEELS like they’re in an Aliens story. The linework and layouts are impressive, giving a sort of cinematic flow to the issue…and I’m pleased at the lack of full or double-page spreads, which often feel like cheats and wastes of space when they’re the bulk of an issue. Only one page is a single/full-page image, and that’s the ending of the issue, where after all those pages crammed full of panels, it provides a stark contrast, and really drives home the importance of the “moment” that it conveys.

The cover is also a fantastic piece of art, and for me quite iconic and recognizeable. It’s also all the more impressive to me as it’s the only cover image I’ve seen for this, allowing it to stand as itself and not be just one in a sea of variant covers diluting the thing. While there may be a variant or two out there specific to someone, I don’t believe there are any alternate covers from Dark Horse in and of itself as a push.

Plenty of questions are opened up here, and the apparent premise of this series now holds a great deal of potential. I look forward to learning more of Zula as well as Davis, and seeing what sort of interactions the two have. I’m interested in how their ‘mission’ will play out, and play into the larger scope of the Aliens universe. While we get the cameo of Amanda Ripley, I believe her story is told in the videogame, and more of an “Easter egg” tossed in for fans as well as being an indicator of the time this is set in. I look forward to seeing and learning more about the Aliens, and seeing these characters grow in their own knowledge and understanding of same.

It will be interesting to see how this is paced, overall as a series…but I almost wish this was already a completed work. As a first issue, this works well overall. I don’t know that this is something that in and of itself right now as a singular issue will pull anyone “new” into Aliens or be necessarily the greatest introduction to the property…but whether long-time fan of the Aliens comics or just now checking them out being familiar with the films and/or video game, I think this is a great start into the comics side of things.

I’m not particularly enamored with the cover price, but will suck it up, given this is Aliens . I’m definitely on board for this series, and definitely recommend checking it out if you’ve any interest already in the property.

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Vampirella/Aliens #1 [Review]

aliensvampirella001Writer: Corinna Bechko
Artist: Javier Garcia-Miranda
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Colorist: InLight Studios
Cover Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Cover Colorist: Jordan Boyd
Published by: Dynamite Entertainment
Cover Date: N/A (September 2015)
Cover Price: $3.99

In twenty-seven years, throughout the entirety of the ’90s and the ‘bad girl’ craze and all that…I never bought even one single issue of Vampirella. That impressive run has now come to an end, thanks to a cover and crossover…with Aliens.

Some cloaked/hooded figures in some sort of underground temple on Mars are attacked by Aliens, and quickly revealed to be vampires. Even their enhanced abilities are no match, and they’re wiped out. Some time later, a ship arrives at the station on the surface, carrying an individual with special expertise…Vampirella. She and the station crew investigate stuff and–of course–encounter the Aliens. They also learn that vampires are not the cause of the strangeness but victims. After fending off an attack that left most of the group unconscious with creatures having attached themselves to faces…we see that even Vampirella isn’t immune to Aliens and their larval Facehugger forms.

I don’t honestly know what I expected from this. I’d known the series was coming up, probably even knew this first issue was due out, but I forgot about it all the same, until I saw it on the shelf.

Despite the presence of Vampirella…the cover looks like an Aliens comic. Aside from the ridiculously unnatural near-lack-of clothing on the female, this could be any Aliens comic, by the looks of it. And that suits me just fine, simply being interested in something new with Aliens. I also like the way the two publishers’ logos are…neither one seems out of place, and the way they appear with the issue number and creator names, if one didn’t know better it’d be quite possible to think that one’s an imprint of the other rather than two “competitors.”

I’m not familiar with the creative team, so nothing prior to compare this to in that regard. But in terms of being “an Aliens story,” this is pretty formulaic and familiar…which I actually appreciate and enjoyed as I read this. (That’s what Aliens crossovers ARE, too, to me: something entertaining despite formula…because it’s Aliens vs. ______ [insert character/property]!) So there’s not much story-wise, to me. I’m aware OF Vampirella but know basically nothing about the character or her past stories/continuity. Ok, so she’s a vampire? Cool…that means she’s at least “tougher” than “regular humans” (as we see in this issue). I don’t really “need” anything else…I’m entertained at “Aliens vs. Vampires” here.

Visually…I like the art. This looks and ‘feels’ like an Aliens comic. And that’s more than good enough for me. I’m especially impressed with the cover, though. Different artists, but the styles work well together–the interior art isn’t a match to the cover, but it’s not a jarring difference or anything. And surprisingly–almost shockingly–despite one particular glimpse of a “classic” look to Vampirella herself, we’re treated mostly to a far more feasibly-dressed female figure that doesn’t make me feel dirty for buying an issue with Vampirella in the title.

I’m not sure if this is 4 or 6 issues for the mini-series, but right now (particularly given the issue’s cliffhanger) I’m very interested in the next issue, and will be keeping an eye out for it next month, whether or not I stick with the single issues for the entirety.

Not being entirely familiar with Vampirella, I don’t know if fans specifically of the character will enjoy this (at least for this issue alone), though I can’t imagine (so far) that it particularly contradicts basic stuff with the character. As an Aliens fan, coming to this because of that side? I really enjoyed this.

The $3.99 for one story chunk is off-putting as ever, put I’ve been pretty much beaten into submission on the fact that all the comics I buy are basically $3.99. While this is certainly an issue worth picking up to try the series, to get to read the story now and as it unfolds, and whatever other usual motivations are present for buyiing a $4 single issue.

Based on this first issue alone, I suspect the eventual collected edition will be of definite interest to Aliens fans, and as we get further into the mini, I won’t be surprised if there’s more material with what will appear to be a distinctly Vampirella tone, for those fans.

Aliens #1 [Review]

classicreviewlogowhite
Quick Rating:
Good

Archeologists find themselves on a planet that probably has more in store for them than they realize.

aliens001 Script: John Arcudi
Pencils: Zach Howard
Inks: Mark Irwin and Zach Howard
Colors: Wes Dzioba
Lettering: Blambot!
Covers: Zach Howard with Brad Anderson and Wes Dzioba
Publisher: Mike Richardson
Editor: Chris Warner
Associate Editor: Samantha Robertson
Art Director: Lia Ribacchi
Designer: Josh Elliott
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

One of the books I read most back in the 90s was Aliens: Earth Hive, a novel that I did not discover until years later was based on a comics mini-series. Turned out, most of the Aliens and Aliens vs. Predator novels I enjoyed during that time were based on comics, all from Dark Horse (and all collected across the various Dark Horse omnibi). That said, the idea of new, original content created for the property, also coming from Dark Horse, was something that grabbed my attention.

We open with a fairly "typical" sorta scene for the Aliens property–introducing us to a couple people who think they know what they’re doing, but quickly find that whatever preparation you have, the creatures are what they are for a reason. Transitioning from that scene, we meet some archeologists headed for Chirone–though they’re unable to establish contact immediately with those planetside. We’re soon introduced to those who live planetside, and a few things click into place propelling us to the cliffhanger toward the next issue.

While I’m really not blown away by it, this is still a good book. You can glean contextually what’s up–and those who are already familiar with the property will be in familiar territory. The story introduces several settings and a bunch of characters; there’s just enough to get a vague idea of what they’re all about. We don’t know what’s going on at Chirone, though issue’s end suggests more than initially meets the eye.

The art is good–no huge complaints here. The visual design of the Aliens is at once familiar and yet something slightly different. That really isn’t a problem, though, as it’s been established by prior stories that there are a number of different aliens–they do not look identical, though one can still recognize ’em instantly for what they are.

As the first quarter of a story, this does what it should–gives us some actual interaction with the creatures, introduces us to characters and gives a bit of motivation to things, and leaves one curious of what’s to come. If you’re a fan of the property, this is definitely worth a look-see. And if you’re wondering at accessibility, I think this is as accessible as any Aliens story. The beauty of ’em is that in many ways, they’re like the zombies in The Walking Dead. They’re there, they’re a definite menace…but the real story is the people and how they handle being around the monsters.

Recommended for Aliens fans new and old…all the more if you’ve enjoyed the Aliens material Dark Horse has put out in the past.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

AVP: Three World War #2 [Review]

Three World War

Script: Randy Stradley
Pencils: Rick Leonardi
Inks: Mark Pennington
Colors: Wes Dzioba
Lettering: Blambot!
Cover art: Raymond Swanland
Book Design: Lia Ribacchi
Associate Editor: Samantha Robertson
Editor: Chris Warner
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

I’ve read a lot of Dark Horse‘s Alien comics, and enjoyed those via the Omnibus volumes. I’ve yet to read much in the way of the Predator stuff, though I’m somewhat familiar with the Predator side of things from the first movie, and both of the AVP films…and a couple of novelizations of Aliens vs. Predator stories from the mid-1990s.

This issue picks up with a bunch of military people heading toward a world where Predators are present (and apparently Aliens as well), and as their guide/advisor, they have the woman who was for a time accepted amongst the Predators, who warns them of how to behave and react around the Predators if they want to stay alive. Where the title comes in–Three World War–seems to be the Aliens, the Predators, and Earthmen. Once the military arrives where the Predators are, the woman leaps into mortal combat with one, apparently following tradition by which one earns the right to speak to the Predators and be taken seriously.

The story itself seems fairly shallow, and one has to make a lot of leaps in following the action and plot, as there’s virtually no context or real sense of history given…if I wasn’t already familiar with the properties, this would seem entirely new and unconnected.

The art is where the strength of the issue lies, as the design and coloring blend for an end result that looks very much like a comic book–as it should, since this is one–and yet, also comes across as something like an adaptation of a screenplay, carrying a lot of weight of story by showing things rather than narration or exposition laying things out. The visuals seem fairly simple and not all that detailed…but these would work fairly well if this were to be an animated tv production.

As seems to be the case with most blends of these two properties, the story tends to be more about the Predators or otherwise those dealing with the Aliens, and the Aliens become a plot device…which I have no problem with. However, one really needs to either be a fan of or not mind reading about the Predators to enjoy this, as the Aliens get virtually zero presence here, and no real development…they’re just kinda there.

All in all, a solid enough issue. There seems to be more unrealized potential here than what’s already unfolded, and the book could do with a recap page (I couldn’t summarize the plot of the previous issue offhand without laying out some serious B.S.). But if you’re a fan of these properties, this is definitely worth a look-see, and if you don’t mind a highly visual-driven reading experience, this is a good series to check out. I do think this will ultimately read best as a collected volume, rather than in single issues with 6-some weeks between issues.

Story: 4/10
Art: 6/10
Overall: 5/10

Aliens #2 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Aliens #1 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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