Title: Aliens: The Essential Comics.
Writer(s): Mark Verheiden.
Illustrator(s): Mark A. Nelson, Denis Beauvais & Sam Kieth.
Publisher: Dark Horse Books.
Release Date: November 6th 2018.
Genre(s): Comics, Horror, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
Back in 1979, director Ridley Scott unleashes a fictional endoparasitoid extraterrestrial specie into the minds of millions of fans as they are seduced by the strange alien creature and its stealthy ways to eliminate trespassers. While what made Alien such a cult classic was its atmospheric and highly-suspenseful story-telling, James Cameron, seven years later, achieved the impossible and built upon Ridley Scott’s work and delivered an action-centric sci-fi horror movie that continues to turn Ripley into the immortal and iconic bad-ass hero that she is now known to be. The explosive success of the franchise has then brought comic book writers and artists to create new stories and further expand the universe of xenomorphs before the world encountered the downfall of the franchise in David Fincher’s Alien 3. It is however safe to say that the cinematic universe continues to grow wonderfully with promising spin-offs and that there will always be a talented ensemble of writers and artists ready to explore the madness around these aliens like none other has done before.
In Aliens: The Essential Comics Volume 1, Dark Horse Books recollect in a beautiful paperback the first four stories set right after the events in Aliens (1986) and before Alien 3 (1992). Complete in colour on carton-thick paper, this volume presents fans of the Alien franchise the opportunity to discover Mark Verheiden’s launch of the Aliens comic book series, including Outbreak (1988), Nightmare Asylum (1989) and Earth War (1990). Sequels to one another, the stories essentially follows recurring characters Hicks, Newt and Ripley as they encounter a crazed cult, confront an insane war general and go on suicide missions to stop the potential world domination by our blood-hungry xenomorphs.
What stands out the most about this collection is how far the Aliens lore has been developed thanks to Mark Verheiden. This isn’t just about androids, aliens and space-rescue missions. Humans become the center of attention in the madness that follows the discovery of these creatures and the stories highlight the monsters that we can be during those particularly deadly times. Mark Verheiden also introduces whole new creatures into the lore and leaves us feeling smaller than ever in a universe filled with unknown beings and their own crusades. Unfortunately, some stories end up introducing too much without giving some of its better ideas time to flourish, especially in Outbreak and Earth War. It’s stories like Nightmare Asylum that shine in its ability to be focused and grounded that makes this collection worthwhile. However, a lot of the plot elements that were featured in the first two movies are also rehashed in these stories and fail to convey any originality on that front. In fact, it led me to believe that this was intentional in order to give fans a quick fix they have been craving as they lived in the unknown on the possibility of a third movie in the franchise.
While each story was uneven in quality, the same could also be said about the artwork. As Outbreak was tolerable but sometimes odd and Nightmare Asylum was adequate and sometimes rightfully eerie, Earth War was wrong both in style and colours. The best part about this medium for this franchise is the opportunity to enjoy these aliens fully drawn-out in their majestic aggressiveness. Otherwise, most human designs are very basic and sometimes also quite confusing. In fact, in Earth War I had difficulty differentiating Newt from Ripley, which should never have been the case. While artwork might not be the forte in Outbreak and Earth War, Den Beauvais’ style does give you hope in the potential of the Alien franchise as a comic book. I’ll just have to see what the modern writers and artists have been able to deliver today now.
Perfect for fans of the Alien franchise, Aliens: The Essential Comics Volume 1 does a wonderful job in recollecting the first comics book stories that ambitiously expand the Alien universe and throws back at fans some of the best tropes of the franchise.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and Dark Horse Books for sending me a copy for review!
This first volume takes place right after James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) and before David Fincher’s Alien 3 (1992). Check out the trailer to the classic sequel to the classic masterpiece now!