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On My History With Aliens

alien3_novelizationThe Aliens franchise is a strange one for me. I’ve realized in recent years that it is honestly one of my absolute favorites, for whatever reason(s)–going back to the novels that so grabbed me as a kid, despite the horror elements–or perhaps because of them.

As my memory currently stands, I’d found a copy of Alien3–the novelization by Alan Dean Foster. After reading that and knowing it was based on a movie, I wanted to see the movie. Long story short, despite misgivings, I was allowed to rent and watch it–I credit it as my first "allowed" R-rated film.

Of course, this was the THIRD film, and there were two others. And being the reader that I was, I got into the other novelizations and films. I distinctly recall the sense of deja-vu in reading the novelization of Alien…I’m pretty certain to this day that I had actually read that some time before, never having a clue that it had anything at all to do with some movie. Of course I read it again having context of it being a movie…though I think at the time I thought the movie was based on the book rather than the other way around.

aliens_bantam_spectra_runI eventually got into the Aliens novels, then published by Bantam Spectra, based on the Dark Horse comics. These were where the non-film stories most stand out to me: the original "trilogy," or first three series from Dark Horse. In these, the Alien gets to Earth, where predictably it escapes confinement and the Earth is ultimately lost. Two survivors (based on Hicks and Newt) wind up on a couple adventures, eventually team up with Ripley (explained as an android with the original’s memories, accounting for the events of Alien 3) and left on a hopeful if ambiguous note.

avp_deadliest_heroillustratedThen further stories picked up some two decades after this, and seemed to maintain a certain sort of loose continuity–at least in the novels; though regardless, the stories were entertaining enough to read, even though none of them stood up against the immensity of the first three-parter. There were also several crossing the Aliens with Predator, which also led me to the Predator films.

By then, I’d been aware of both franchises and their crossing thanks to Hero Illustrated and such with hype over Aliens vs. Predator: Deadliest of the Species. avp_three_world_war_0002But it was the novels that I preferred, having little interest at the time in the actual comics, given it was years before "anything and everything" could be relatively simply located–and for bargain prices–online, and further before everything was collected and at least available to be READ if not owned in original single issues.

In the last several years, I’ve "gotten back into" Aliens, with Titan Books now having the license, and putting out some new editions and original stories and such, along with newer editions of the packaging for the films on home media, and new (but too-expensive) toys.

And of course, there have been the comics. There was AVP: Three World War, I believe standing as its own story with not much to do with the films, but utilizing the logo/branding from the AVP films. There was another Aliens series that I’m sure I at least had the first issue, but not sure if I followed through with the series in general.

lifeanddeath_predatorIn 2014, there was the mega-arc Fire and Stone, with 4-issue mini-series each for Prometheus, Aliens, Predator, and AVP that tied together into the larger overall story.

Last year we had the start of a new major Aliens series in Defiance–offhand, I think the longest singular Aliens series (Aliens vs. Predator: Deadliest of the Species was 12 issues, I believe, but that wasn’t a singular-property series).

Last year also saw the start of a new mega-arc Life and Death, which was "in the tradition of Fire and Stone" with 4-issue minis for each of the four brands, collectively telling one larger overall arc.

Despite both Defiance and Life and Death starting last year, I got behind on READING, so it was only in April–right after the final chapter of Life and Death hit–that I carved out several hours and read that story cycle straight through–lifeanddeath_aliensall 17 chapters–in one day. I also re-read the Defiance issues I’d read, and continued on, though those had a slight delay with real-life issues going on, and I finished catching up a week or so ago.

There’s a new Predator mini that’s started that looks like it builds on continuity established over the years in the Dark Horse series, which makes it all the more appealing to me, as I can go back and read (finally) older stories for enhanced understanding/context.

I posted photos of my Aliens "bookshelf" collection several weeks ago and more recently found a couple figures from the 1990s toy line. A new book anthology Aliens: Bug Hunt was recently released and has been my current "reading project" on lunches at work.

lifeanddeath_predatorWhich all sorta converges this weekend with the release of the new Ridley Scott-helmed film Alien: Covenant. To my understanding, this is a "sequel" of sorts to 2012’s Prometheus which was itself a quasi-prequel to Alien (in that it’s in the same universe and took place prior to the events of the original Alien film). Given the use of Alien back in the title itself, I’m definitely expecting to see the eponymous creature in this one. I’m also looking forward to the film in general as (expectationally) my first theatrical Scott Alien film (though I’ve seen Alien Resurrection, AVP, AVP Requiem, and Prometheus during their theatrical runs).

Perhaps–for me–one of the great things with the Aliens (and Predator) stuff (whether as novels or comics) is that there are so many stories to tell, as well as so many iterations ofsuperman_aliens_ad a formula. The basic elements are there, one can generally have accurate expectations going into a story–but there doesn’t even HAVE TO BE a singular, linear "continuity." The creatures work in stories on their own, or even interacting with other franchises. To me, one of the best of those is the Superman/Aliens crossover, as that drew directly from and even had lasting repercussions within the Superman titles. (And on the matter of lasting repercussions, I believe the Aliens crossover with WildC.A.T.s was the finale of that series and a sort of inciting incident that moved us from Stormwatch to The Authority).

But while a larger story can be found, it seems like if you know the "basics" of the property, you can pretty much read whatever, whenever, without missing out. And the model for the comics lifeanddeath_prometheushas apparently always been the "limited series"–I don’t believe there’s ever been an "ongoing" series with any intention or expectation of exceeding 12 issues; with a number of shorter serialized stories, a "prestige format" 2-issue series, or 4 to 6 issues for a series. And these are finite and collected–largely–in Dark Horse‘s Omnibus line.

It’s also far more achievable to pursue a "complete" collection of Aliens comics than characters that have been around longer, and in ongoing series and crossovers and minis and such all around.

For now–the new Alien film. With plenty of new material to read, and loads to re-read, and old material to read for the first time. It seems like a great time to be "into" the franchise(s) and such with so much content readily available–new and old–to go through!

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Aliens Day 2017

It’s interesting to see the various "days" that folks have come up with. Seems like there’s something for every day of the year. Where once there were "Hallmark Holidays," now even those would be prestigious rarities by comparison.

That said, one of the ones that I can actually appreciate is Aliens Day. April 26th…or 4/26. As in LV-426, the planetoid with the colony that the Colonial Marines and Ripley went (back) to in the film Aliens all those years back.

And as one of my all-time favorite franchises, and not having properly observed it last year in its inaugural outing, I figured I’d dedicate a post to it this year.

Yet, I don’t have anything lengthy or long-winded; I could ramble about my thoughts on the films, the books, etc; some memories tied up in stuff around obtaining various pieces of my collection, but I don’t actually have the time or patience at present.

SO, in lieu of lots of words, I’ll let some photos do most of the "talking."

Aliens Day 2017…here is my Aliens collection.

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The films. Well, the Blu-Ray editions, anyway–once upon a time, I had the Aliens Quadrilogy dvd box set–the 9-foot-long thing with all those discs and such. I also had all the single films on dvd, with a couple different editions of Alien and Aliens. I’ve since bought a pale imitation of the Quadrilogy dvd–bare-bones films–BUT that one came with a code for a digital copy, giving me a digital set of the first four films.

And over the past year and a half or so with the Anniversary Edition releases for the first two, I’ve bought those for the bonus (physical) content.

I also lump the Predator franchise in here…I find that via the Aliens vs. Predator and AvP stuff, the two are solidly linked, and the Predator stuff just works well partnered with the Aliens stuff.

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I believe I have the entire run of ’90s novels, each adapting one of Dark Horse Comics‘ mini-series. About 12 years ago, there were several more books released directly from the publisher under a now-defunct imprint. And of course, there were the movie novelizations. More recently, Titan Books has been putting out new stuff such as a trilogy of Alien novels set between the original Alien film and Aliens.

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Titan also put out a newer trilogy "crossing" franchises–Predator, Alien, and Alien vs. Predator, set in a further future, and set the stage for what could be some very interesting universe-building should further novels be produced. There’s also a newer anthology of short stories, and a number of other books and products outside the Titan well.

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Of course, there are the comics–which I have in multiple formats. I’m loving the oversized hardcovers. There are the original collected volumes. We recently got a collection of Dark Horse‘s collaborations with DC on the Aliens stuff. The excellent Omnibus series encompassing Aliens, Aliens vs. Predator, and Predator itself.

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Then there are the toys/figurines/etc. Funko Pop figures, regular and oversized; Minimates, Neca, Funko Mystery Mini figures, and even a "cute" plush happy-looking face-hugger.

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In trying to get a bunch of the Alien creature from the Mystery Minis line, I wound up with far more Predators–the standard, the "wounded" variant, and the extra-rare translucent "invisible" variant. I eventually snagged the "full-size" standard Pop figure.


I’m also very much looking forward to the new movie due out in about three weeks, and to the concluding chapter of the mega-arc Life and Death that’s due out this week.

I’ve seen a number of other toys/figures I’d like, but they tend to be very much on the far-too-expensive side for me, especially where life is right now.

I do imagine a re-watch marathon may be in the near-future for me, as well as having plenty of reading yet to go, having been back through or just through (in the case of the newer releases) some dozen or so of the novels in the last year-plus.

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The First Mega-Haul of 2017

This past weekend saw my first "mega-haul" of the year, with a combination of Half-Price Books and a trip to the main comic shop, with freshly-stocked bargain-bins!

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At HPB, I snagged the long-outta-print trade-paperback-sized paperback edition of Batman: Knightfall. This is the Barnes and Noble "exclusive," which makes it all the more "rare" with ALSO being "out of print"…yet the thing was priced at a mere $8…HARDLY a "collectible" price for a book in such great condition all these years later! So much for consistency, I guess…their loss, my gain!

I also snagged the Alien: The Illustrated Story because it’s…well, Aliens. I’m a sucker for this stuff, and while I am thinking there’s a more deluxe/hardcover type edition of this available, for the price and being in-hand, I didn’t want to pass this up.

And finally, since I (thankfully) had "inventory" photos of my phone, I was able to determine that I did NOT yet own Dark Victory (It’s Long Halloween and Haunted Knight that I already owned)…and since I’ve intended to complete the "trilogy" for ages now, I figured I’d get that marked off the list.

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At the comic shop, there was a shortbox of TPBs marked 80% off. I was flat-out astonished to find this Superman: Eradication! volume…honestly did a double-take, and checked my ‘inventory’ to make sure I wasn’t crossing this with something else. But sure enough…this truly is the book I’ve been wanting for ages now, and unable to find for a reasonable price anywhere–in person OR online. And then just because it’s Dan Jurgens, Booster Gold, and at 80% off, the price of a single-issue of a current Rebirth DC comic, I also snagged the JLI vol. 1 paperback.

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I also got the latest issue of Spawn (pull list!), which I think puts me at about a full year of having the title on my pull list…a feat the title has never before done!

The TMNT issue I actually picked up at Toys R Us…it was some sort of Mega Bloks promotional issue that I’d been unaware of. Disgustingly, even this has a variant cover (I only saw this "regular" cover available, happily–I’d’ve been highly annoyed to ONLY be ABLE to get the VARIANT). Ridiculously-priced for what it is…but something about it struck me as something that would gnaw away at me if I did not get it, knowing it existed and I could get it FOR the same "cover price" as any other TMNT issue from IDW.

And then we get into the 25-cent bin haul, after the cut…

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Final Haul of 2016

New Year’s Eve, I made a quick trip to the old comic shop to pick up a few things. I also stopped at a Books-A-Million to snag something for a friend, and wound up getting a couple things for myself while I was there. These are the highlights–minus thirty-three 20-cent issues.

final_haul_2016a

Lotta Aliens stuff. Well, and Predator. And the mashing together of the properties. In short, awesomeness. I’m loving these new Titan volumes collecting the classic Dark Horse Novels books. Even though I have the originals, I’ve been getting these for the completeness. I’ve been realizing the last year-plus that Aliens (and related) properties are much like TMNT for me in being willing to "double-dip" (or more) on stuff.

final_haul_2016b

With a 20%-off-everything-but-brand-new-comics sale going on, I snagged the Munchkin mini-expansion Dragons (to go with Dragon’s Trike that I got several weeks ago)…and got the Super Powers Superman figure/"statue" to go with the Robin one I got several months ago (though now I definitely want Batman. And Flash. And perhaps even Green Lantern…)

And Friday I’d revisited the closer comic shop for several volumes:

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At half-off and fitting in with recent Clone Saga and Ben Reilly volumes plus CHapter One and The Original Clone Saga that I’d had from 2015 or early 2016, I decided that I wanted them…especially having seen them. So I decided that if they still had all three volumes, I’d get ’em; all-or-nothing.

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And now the Spidey portion of my collection is starting to look like something not completely pitiful. Of course, I believe I have four more volumes to track down for the Clone Saga Epic, and decide how much I’m willing to pay on the Ben Reilly volumes 5 & 6 (even cover price seems way too expensive!) (especially having gotten 1-4 for $8/ea!)

Hopefully this week will be a relatively small week, though!

Finally, the clear bonus to going back to the shop on Friday was getting to see Winston!

winston_dec30_2016

(He was still sleepy when I took this photo). He put up with my attention, though, which (as always) made the trip worth it for that alone!

New Toys: TMNT, Rogue, and Aliens

Over the weekend, along with going to a small convention, I also found a couple toys I’d been looking for…and a friend gave me some others that are equally (if not moreso) cool.

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Quite some time back, I was disappointed at the "Karai Serpent" figure. When I recently came across the Armaggon figure, I noticed reference to this figure, and have had my eye out since. Heading into November very shortly and the shopping season, I did not want to pass on this figure, having found it… who knows when I’d come across it again.

tmnt2012_toys_karai_back

I again don’t really see any other figures of particular interest to me–I have come across my original 1980s Mondo Gecko, so am interested in getting the new one for the contrast as I have with a number of other characters. Between what I see on this card back and the 2016 live-action movie figures…there’s really nothing that I’ll be much looking for in the near future, that I am presently aware of.

tmnt2012_toys_karai_profile

Here’s the "profile card" for Karai…


Rogue has long been one of my favorite X-Men characters…at least in the comics. And probably more specifically, the 1990s comics. Even more specifically, probably from 1991’s X-Men #1 to around The Trial of Gambit, maybe a bit beyond.

I had intended to–as with most other waves–ignore the X-Men wave of the Marvel Legends figures.

But I found myself interested in the Rogue figure…if not the price of these figures.

So when I came across the figure at a 25% discount…the price became a bit more palatable…"only" $2 more than what Target (ridiculously!) has as their pricing of the 3.75" figures.

And as I told my friend when I put the figure in the cart…if I did not buy it immediately, we’d never see this figure "in the wild" again. Of course, having bought it…I expect I might see it "everywhere" now.

marvel_legends_rogue_front

I’m not fond of the build-a-figure things anymore…not at these prices. When the regular figures were $7-8ish and you only needed 5-6 to build the bigger figure, they were pretty cool. But at $20/figure (regular asking price), they’re just way too expensive these days, especially when I’m truly only interested in a couple figures in the line and the build-a-figure itself.

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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.

Aliens On My Shelf

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With the new Alien novel comes a revisiting of my collection. I’ve been “collecting” the Aliens novels since my high school years, if not a bit before. Unfortunately I’m still missing some, but still quite enjoy the run I do have of these…

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The original trilogy of novelizations, all by Alan Dean Foster.

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These novels are based on the various comics published by Dark Horse, though I didn’t learn that until years later, having never paid attention to the indicia–or it never “registered” with me. I simply enjoyed them for what they were…especially the initial trilogy.

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A few years ago, I caught up on these–a newer series of novels, again from Dark Horse, but I don’t think they were adaptations.

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My introduction to Predator was through these novels. It was a number of years later before I finally saw the Predator films, though. I recall looking forward to the initial AVP film, but being quite disappointed In the result.

And now some new novels are out, and I’m intending to get back into reading Aliens for 2015.

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